Maggie Cassidy-Brinn

A woman’s body is a promise. 

Flora’s in the sandbox, wrapped in ribbons.

A woman’s body is an amusement park.

Diving down her ribcage and climbing up her hips, yeah. It’s a thrill. I’ve traced it, the lazy S of her. Many have. Tickets are half-price on Tuesdays.

A woman’s body is a business proposition.

We have to eat. A big woman like me, I can’t live on pussy juice alone, no matter how much spills and spurts from Flora’s cracks. 

Yeah. I’m in love with a woman who leaks. I’m in love with a woman who’s been drawn outside the lines. Her thoughts crawl up out of the roots of the hair and wander off. She drools. She blows her nose onto the sidewalk. She’s unemployable. And I’m a fat dyke with untreated anxiety disorder and a wonky knee. I get real mad, real fast. 

This is the only way. 

We wait for the night’s first trick. 

The swings are twisting in the wind. I zip my hoodie. The wind blows in from the North. By the time it gets here, it doesn’t dance with leaves or rustle blades of grass. This playground’s concrete. No suburban frailty for us. Kids fall here, they bleed out. In our city, the wind rattles chains, upsets garbage lids, scares pigeons off their course. The wind bounces off walls and whips around corners and by the time it gets in your head you’re haunted good.

The night’s first trick walks over muttering to himself and looking around all paranoid, but he pays upfront. Flora leads him to the playhouse.

“Come on, come on,” I hear her say. 

Then I hear a scream and I’m on my feet. You wouldn’t believe a mass like me could move so fast, but I have a ninja spirit. The trick’s head is pinned under my elbow in the space between two heartbeats. Flora’s sitting on the little table. She’s got blood trickling down her nose, but her face is blank. Just her eyes look wild, staring up at the aluminum ceiling of her child-sized house. 

I break the weasel’s finger and tell him it’ll be his dick if I ever see him again. I’m not lying. He scrams, still muttering. His voice gets quieter as he goes, like a long cable being chewed at by a rat. Finally, the wind carries it away.

I feel Flora behind me, her fingers on my scalp. “I’m hungry.” 

“Three,” I remind her. “That’s two more. Then I take you to Georgie’s for pie.”

That makes her happy. We settle in to wait. I fix her ribbons. When cars drive by, she glows for a second in their headlights, like an alien queen. I tickle her in that special spot behind her elbows to make her smile.

An old guy finally shuffles over, pays up. He’s so old his fingers tremble as he counts the bills. He’s got whiskers coming out all over his face, out of impossible places.

“Come on, come on,” Flora’s voice is higher this time, teasing. 

I play candy crush on my phone. Then I notice it’s gotten weirdly quiet. I hear a sniff. Flora. Something’s off. I edge closer to listen over the howling wind.

“Dumb, dumb, you’re so fucking dumb.” He’s whispering in her ear. “Ugly. You should be paying me, ugly cunt. How do you wake up in the morning and keep breathing? Why don’t you kill yourself? Why don’t you jump in front of a train, dumb slut trash reeking fattie fish slit –”

“Out.” I take his jacket and throw it out of the house. I’d throw his pants, but they’re still around his ankles and my knee is mad at me from the last ninja shit. “Get the fuck gone, grandpa, and I’ll pretend we never met.”

“You need me,” he sneers.

“I need you to get gone.”

This time I’m the one holding Flora from behind. She’s quiet, which I don’t trust. We rock there a little, together. She’s still warm, even in this wind. She’s got hidden furnaces. I’m ready to fuck our plans and get my woman some pie because sometimes you can make money be there when you really need it, when I hear somebody say, “Aw.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet. I wish I had someone like that to love me.”

He goes on like that. He’s a little guy, with buggy eyes and stringy hair. He keeps scratching inside his ears. The wind is haunting this one real good. He doesn’t stop talking, talking about how lonely he is.

I’m bored as fuck after a couple minutes of this, and besides, he hasn’t paid.

I wait for a pause to collect and when none comes, I make one by standing up. My body has a quieting effect when I want it to, even on this rambling rose of a trick.

But not on Flora. Never her.

“No,” she says. And I think I misheard her in the wind, but she says it again, “He’s poor, like us. We should help him out.”

“Help him?” My brain is playing dead. It’s flaccid there in my skull, useless.

“I’m in no hurry. Let him talk.” She’s running her fingers down his neck now. I turn and go back to the swing set. My breath is coming funny, in hitches. My temples start to feel like they’re trying to squeeze in and give one another a kiss. I thump down to the ground and put my head to my knees and try to slow it all down.

When I start to notice how cold the concrete is on my ass, I’m ready to get up. I head back to the playhouse, where this guy is crying now, with his head in Flora’s lap. I put one hand over his mouth and nose, one hand down on his chest to keep him from running. His bug eyes bug out a little farther. Flora looks up at me, her forehead all scrunched up.

“He’s hurting,” she says.

I keep pressing my palm over his airways. He tries to lick me, bite me, but after the beating I just got from my own brain, it’s nothing. It might as well be a caress. When he starts slowing down, I release my hands. He’s off like a bunny. I rub my eyes until they send purple sparks behind my eyelids.

“Mean.” Flora’s pouting.

“Come on.” I tug her earlobe. “Pie time.”

“But he didn’t pay. That’s only two.” That’s Flora. She’ll never think logical and straight until she’s trying to fuck with me, then she’s suddenly headmistress of Madame Stickler’s School for Girls.

“Yeah. Whatever. Two, three. You’re hungry. We’re getting pie.”

She shrugs, adjusts her ribbons. We gather up our shit and go, leaning headfirst into the wind.

I’m still shook. That last trick was the worst kind of poison. I can handle fists and curses slide right off me. But when they come at you with their weakness, that’s when I get scared. I gulp the wind and will it to wash me clean. 

Someday the wind is going to blow this city away. It will crumble the buildings and sweep them into the ocean. It will fling all the sweaty-balled tricks straight over the rainbow and all their money after them. All the babies, all the playgrounds, all the phones and calendars and lies. Gone.

Just us two will be left. The cockroach and the moth. Me scurrying through the abandoned trash, fat and happy and immortal, while Flora flits above, light pouring through her wings. It’s our city and they can never, ever kill us.

Maggie Cassidy-Brinn writes slipstream and literary fiction with a queer, feminist slant.  She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and got a PhD in philosophy at the University of Vienna. Born in Los Angeles, she has gone on to play house in Seattle, New York City, northern Ghana, and Papua New Guinea, and currently lives in Vienna with her partner and two small children. Her short fiction has appeared in Improper Walls and is forthcoming in The Spotlong Review