Arkansas I-40 | Dennis Milam Bensie

9:00am, Kingsbow, Arkansas: a beat up truck pulls into the parking lot at the Cadillac dealership.

“We can do this,” Becky Collier says to her husband.

“I know.” Ed answers his wife squeezing her hand.

A salesman wastes no time meeting them outside.

“We’d like to buy one of your new Escalades,” Ed tells the salesman.

“Is this a trade-in?”

“No. We’re keeping our old truck.”

The salesman walks the couple out to the lot and they quickly pick out a brand new model with all the bells and whistles. The couple test drive the truck with very little thought.

“We’ll take it.”

The salesman’s surprised how fast and easy he makes the sale. The Colliers are escorted inside where the men spend the next two hours hammering out the money with the dealership’s financial office while Becky waits outside. It’s a tough transaction. They are risking their house and their farm, yet Ed agrees to a $890 a month payment for the next sixty months. He’s afraid to tell his wife how much he took out of their account for the down payment. Continue reading “Arkansas I-40 | Dennis Milam Bensie”

Tampon | Alexandra Neuman

At age seven I found one in my mom’s cabinet. I sat cross-legged on the icy marble flooring of her bathroom and eagerly stripped the plastic wrapper off of what I thought was advanced candy. What I found inside left me quietly stunned; the shiny plastic bullet was the symbol of a world of tiny things that I was not allowed to know of yet, and its blatant uselessness mocked me. Inedible, impenetrable—it shared some relationship with my mother, maybe my father, their mere owning it upheld my growing suspicion of all that they were hiding. It was there in my hand yet wholly out of reach; it hinted in that moment of some gross reality that I was ashamed to not yet understand. Continue reading “Tampon | Alexandra Neuman”

The First Six Meters | Vidya Panicker

Every day, I wake up at the crack of dawn and find my way to the pond 100 meters away from the house. I pinch my nose and take three dips in the chilling water, eye the sun for a few seconds through the hazy mist of dawn and chant the words of God that could bless my womb with a single sprout.

The sun shines on unhindered, and I walk home trembling like a leaf in monsoon winds.

This afternoon, in the doctor’s consulting room when I see the picture of a zygote pasted on the wall across me, I am reminded of my daily prayers and my icy mornings. The single cell from where life begins looks to me like a plain, colorless sun. Continue reading “The First Six Meters | Vidya Panicker”

How I Learned the Meaning of Ableism | Rebecca Riley

It was my first week of grade five at a new school when I learned the word that would haunt me for years to come. One morning, I got off my bus and walked around the school to the back. A girl approached me and said, “You know, you’re in the retarded class.” Then she walked away. I didn’t know what “retarded” meant, but I understood that it wasn’t good. When I eventually made friends, I told them about the girl’s comment and her teacher found out. One day during recess, her teacher gathered both of us together and asked if she had said that.

“Rebecca, I would never say that,” the girl replied.

The teacher didn’t look further into it, but the girl never bothered me again. However, I gained another bully. Every day, he called me “stupid,” “idiot” and “retarded.” I became afraid to attend school. I told my educational assistant and she accompanied me to the principal’s office. After explaining the situation, the principal said, “Well, his mom died of cancer, and his dad travels a lot for work, so his older brother takes care of him.” His brother was notified that I had complained, but no serious measures were taken. The bullying continued for two years, until I graduated. Continue reading “How I Learned the Meaning of Ableism | Rebecca Riley”

Opposites Detract | Cath Bore

In February, The Fem asked authors to submit unconventional love stories, essays, or poems. Please enjoy this unconventional love piece from Cath Bore:  

Last winter was a long one, the only colour outside offered up by balding grass or an evergreen bush overplaying its hand, plastic privet leaves perfect and even shaped, factory line fodder. Winter smells of nothing, but in summer warm murmurs of flowers, soft and malty, puff out the gentle scent of pollen. Bees flit from flower to flower like the rest of us aren’t here, they carry on whether we watch them or not; it’s reassuring like meat sizzling on barbecues firming from raw pink to brown. Something’s always burning during summer, our neighbour’s brazier coughs out smoke after dark like he doesn’t expect anyone to notice. He chucks in all sorts. I reckon he goes around collecting bits of rubbish from people’s bins just so he has something to burn. Continue reading “Opposites Detract | Cath Bore”

Read Between the Lines | Deborah Batterman

Anna thinks she’s smarter than I am. “You’re the one who gets all the A’s, sure, sure,” she says. We are sitting at a café in Greenwich Village, Anna’s feet resting (more like showing off her clunky new Doc Martens) on a chair she has pulled over from a nearby table. She grabs a cigarette from an outside pocket of her bookbag, lights up, frowns when I shake my head, no thanks. She takes a drag, her words come out in one long breath. “But I’m the one who’s going places.” High school is three months from being a thing of the past. Her dream is to work for a record company. She’ll be an executive secretary, go to all the parties, mingle with rock stars. Nobody can take a letter as fast as she can. She reaches into her bookbag, something she wants to show me, a page from her notepad. I try to decipher the sweep of curves and lines reminiscent of the poems in Persian miniatures we saw on a class trip to the Brooklyn Museum. “All You Need Is Love,” she says. Transcribed into Gregg shorthand. Continue reading “Read Between the Lines | Deborah Batterman”

Damn Phylicia Rashad: What the Cosby Scandal Has Taught Us About Rape Culture and the Remnants of the Cosby Legacy | Kayla Dawes

Nightly television for a good portion of my childhood included re-runs of The Cosby Show. It is, no doubt, one of the funniest family sitcoms ever to air on American television, and what really made it important to me, my family and my upbringing was that Cosby introduced images of successful African Americans through the medium of television. Whether it be my first encounter with college through the love sagas of Dwayne Wayne and Whitley on the spin-off series, A Different World, or the nuclear Black family that had attained the American Dream we all long for, Cosby’s productions were essential to my experiences.

Phylicia Rashad, who played Clair Huxtable, the lawyer married to the OB/GYN with his own practice and with whom she had five beautiful children, was the best TV mother figure I have ever had – she was Black, she was successful, she had a family, and she had a rigorous and well-respected occupation. She was wise, beautiful, elegant, and educated. My heart took a major hit when I heard my feminist TV mother had made statements to disregard the stories of many of the victims of Bill Cosby’s sexual assaults. Continue reading “Damn Phylicia Rashad: What the Cosby Scandal Has Taught Us About Rape Culture and the Remnants of the Cosby Legacy | Kayla Dawes”

The Short Goodbye | Cath Bore

I want to say goodbye properly and in my own way but the chance is stolen from me, his eyes dimming to opaque glass the millisecond mine choose to blink. I feel cheated as my eyelids open back up while his lips slack apart in a final sour gasp. His bowels void silently, the stench an unexpected punch. I sit on the floor, the cold kitchen tiles chilling the back of my legs and watch the clock’s metal hand jerking from second to second until five full minutes go by. No calling the police, no pulling in the paramedics. Either will be useless; there is nothing they can do for him now. Continue reading “The Short Goodbye | Cath Bore”