The fantastic anthology, “Subversion,” arrives tomorrow! It’s full of amazing stories by authors like Camille Alexa, Cat Rambo, Wendy Wagner and many more. And the reviews are starting to surface. Here’s one that just came out, and which has this to say about my story, “Seed.”
I didn’t want to write about Shanna Germain’s story, “Seed.” Really, I didn’t. This story has the most repugnant of the many cruelties that prompt protagonists to subversive action in this collection of stories. But the thing is, Germain’s a terrific writer. Food, eroticism, cultural disjuncture, something a hair shy of femicide, the promise of revenge — it’s all in “Seed” and its all laid out with consummate skill. Like Alexa’s story but far more disturbing, this one stays with you long after you’ve come to its close.
Reviews like that make me so very very happy. If you want a taste of the delicious, repugnant subversion that I dish up in “Seed,” here it is.
EXCERPT OF “SEED”
Clark has come with his cherries again. Carrying them in his ungloved hands, their skins touching his skin.
I take them delicately and without flinching, as I have been taught, my bare palms cupped for his offering, his dark red fruits tumbling into my hands. They are too much, too visceral, their blooded curves beckoning my tongue in a way that is not for polite company. Not even polite, paid company.
“Thank you, Clark,” I say, now that his cherries are in my hands, and I can look away from them, to his face. He likes it when we address him by first name. Proper address – last, home, first – make his ruddy cheeks go more red and plump, like his cherries. Smind Kaja Meira says this means he is embarrassed or angered. So we must never call him Tupelo Oklahawma Clark, only ever Clark, and we must let him dump his cherries into the bowl of our cupped hands until they overflow, and, if we can help it, we must not show our own embarrassment at their round, sweet scent against our noses.
“My pleasure, Sallie Kaja Arana,” he says. The words come off his tongue slow and careful, and I know he has worked hard to memorize my whole name, even if he doesn’t have the accents right.
“Just Arana,” I say. “If it pleases you.”
“It does,” he says. And then like always, as if he’s tasting my name in his mouth, a sound that makes me shiver and flush. “Arana.”
I think he is a pretty man, although I don’t know if that’s true by his own people’s standards. Big-bellied in a way that signifies his fecundity. Pale, barely pinkened skin that shows he spends much time in the common spaces. He wears many layers, his outfit cuts across him in funny places, belts at waist and ankle – but all of that serves to show more of his girth and weight, and perhaps that is the purpose. Still, I like him best of all when he is naked as the rest of us, just his skin and body, no artifices between us.
“Please make yourself at home,” I say. Clark is already doing just that, but it’s important to follow decorum, to say the thing that we wish for our clients. Even the ones who pay with such high, personal prices as bright red cherries for something we should gladly give away for free. Smind Kaja Meira says this is the way of things, that one person’s food is another person’s lying with, and we should take what he offers and be grateful.
I prefer it, truly, to our own men, the skinny, boney ones who pay us in monies so that they may eat with us, so they may enter our private kitchenette spaces and feed us our own bits of day-old meat and scavenged berries. The way they watch my mouth chew and swallow, commanding me at their bidding.”Open your mouth,” they say. “Let me see your tongue, your teeth. I want to watch you bite this. Now this. Swallow, oh the gods, swallow. Yes.” Their bare hands touching my lips, their fingers tasting the secret inner places of my mouth. In exchange for this great and private thing, our own men try to shill us, to never pay in foods but always in the small, plain monies of the worlds, hardly worth a loaf of bread, a piece of dead fish.
Last year, one of the men took advantage of Gardin Kaja Kalliara while in her kitchenette, stuffing her mouth with quail bread until she could take no more, holding her against the table and force-feeding her from his own mouth, pieces chewed by his own teeth even after she’d said no and no again. We girls of Kaja’s house do many things in our kitchenettes, things that would embarrass our great mothers if they knew, but to be forced, to eat from the mouth of another? No. Never. Smind Kaja Meira threw the man out, but it was too late. Gardin Kaja Kalliara had eaten her last meal at the hands of a gluttonist, a gorgist, the worst kind of rapist. We mourned her as we should a sister – returning each to our private kitchenettes the hour after her death, grieving for four days and four nights, putting out half our foodstuffs to share with her in a final breadbreak before she left for the aboveworld. But she never came to eat.