FICTION March 8, 2013

Three Larissa Stories

Larissa's Greatest Fear

I'm making breakfast, oatmeal with lots of raisins and brown sugar and cinnamon and chocolate chips, because I don't want it to taste healthy but I'm at the age when I have to worry about my colon and pacify it with fiber and direct kind thoughts toward it. I feel this pain in my right side and stop with my spoon in the air and the microwave still running. I have to watch the oatmeal so it doesn't explode out of the bowl, but I worry the pain is a harbinger of doom, the first sign of appendicitis. My dad had it when he was a kid and said it felt like he had the flu, then he threw up, then he had a stabbing knife cramp in his right side and had to go to the emergency room.

This is my nightmare, the stomachache that gets worse then I have to be cut open before something explodes, and my oatmeal is done, it has exploded all over the microwave like my appendix will do someday because it's out to get me. The appendix is an organ scientists say humans used to need but don't any more, so I wonder why it wasn't phased out like rotary dial phones or milkmen or chalkboards that use real chalk. We have better organs, new and improved, so there's nothing for the appendix to do but get bored and inflamed. I make new oatmeal because my colon needs me and my colon is something I still need, unlike my appendix, but I can't eat because there's that pain in my right side.

On my walk to my new job at the shoe store I consider how tiny and innocuous things sometimes aren't, how scissors and sticks take out eyes and certain bees are evil and you can get hit by lightning when the sky is blue. Millions of these warnings scroll under the screen on the nightly news, which makes me wonder how the hell is anyone still alive when the latest bulletin is about this guy in Memphis who fell off a ladder and got knocked unconscious and drowned in four inches of water. My stomach is unhappy because it is empty and I can hear my appendix muttering but I can't make out the words. I tell the guy who's outside the shoe store with a coffee cup full of change that my appendix is talking to me, and he asks if I need a quarter to call someone, but I can't call my appendix so I shake my head and think about the number of people who are killed by vending machines every year. I know I saw the statistic somewhere and it was higher than I expected but there was no explanation of how it happened, if the victims aggravated the vending machines or if they were just maneuvering the machine to coax out their bag of chips, a small thing that did not seem dangerous.

Teresa Milbrodt received her MFA in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University. She is the author of the short story collection Bearded Women: Stories (Chizine Publications), and the forthcoming novel The Patron Saint of Unattractive People (Boxfire Press). Milbrodt has published her stories in numerous literary journals, and several have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Gunnison, Colorado, with her husband Tristan and cat Aspen.