Elizabeth Kerlikowske



When the eldest shook the jar, it made the sound of doves' wings, which is also the sound of fortunes scraping together. He said, "There are wishes left in the jar," and the people had to believe him because the jar was clay. No one but the eldest was allowed to reach in to see how many wishes remained. The people trusted that when they needed a wish, one would be there. The country was overrun by invaders; the keepers of the jar retreated to a cave, but they did not reach into the jar. They were saving their wishes for the last possible moment, but the gunfire and bombing stopped after several hours. The eldest looked out the mouth of the cave and saw only enemy soldiers. The next day he looked again and saw soldiers but also a few of his clan and three dogs chasing a monkey. He told the others to go and be reunited with their kin, and he buried the wishing jar, which he had thrown when he was a young man. He knew exactly how many wishes were in it, which is why he had kept it with him but never reached in.



She was wrong to build her web over his easy chair when the house was dark and empty because at night, lights snapped on and bodies collapsed into cushions. The tv smeared the walls with sounds, not what she wanted at all. But each morning, she forgot. She fixed her spinnerets on tight and pinned an end of web to an outcropping of ceiling paint and the other to an irregular fleck in the wall paper, these happy mindless hours. Now someone was home, walking past her toward the refrigerator, nearly smacking her as she hung suspended from nothing. If only he knew how hard it was producing this much silk each day, her spinnerets thirsty like the mouths of the desert people on tv running from the guns. She rested midair and saw the clap of hands approach her from either side. Not, it wasn't like what her mother had described, no rubbing or squishing, no leg pulling or fire. It was as if the hands did not want her to die, just be deaf for several hours or disappear. A clean white cloth wrapped around her, hiding her from view on top of the garbage, then a banana peel, like mittens thrown away after sinning. She waited til the house was quiet, nearly morning, to crawl under the cover of the ironing board.



A woman willed her unwanted hair to grow from a single follicle. Where to place the follicle was the question; the hair grew between three and five feet a day. She wouldn't want it on her chin, for example, or even on her head, though that seemed the most logical place. She considered her arm pit but that could get bunchy under winter layers. Locating the follicle in her pubic hair, which she was keeping, made the most sense. She always carried little golden scissors in a smart case. She was often seen with them, and when asked what they were for, would only smile enigmatically.
      One night after the opera or a karaoke session, she brought home a young man who fell asleep with his leg across her body. He woke affixed to her by hair. His struggling caused her a great deal of pain, as you can imagine, yet she reached her scissors on the nightstand and cut him free. "What are you, some kind of freakin' spider?" he cried as he scrambled into his clothes. When angered, she was a thrower.
      They removed the golden scissors from his back easily in the emergency room. "She's a spider or something, man. I woke up, like, encased in hair." He failed the tox screen, though, and there were a couple of outstanding warrants. The woman never found another pair of scissors quite as perfect as those she had wasted on the man's back. She never let a man spend an entire night with her again, carefully wrapping herself in extravagant negligees to disguise what were becoming spinnerets.


I wrote the drafts of Wishing Jar and Anniversary Waltz in the same sitting, one miraculous afternoon. The Story About The Body is a result of much "scientific" thinking on my part. I have many pet theories about how things could work more efficiently (ask me about breathing in and flight take-off).