Pursed by Amina Gautier

Anton Chekhov Award for Very Short Fiction 2020 – First Prize

Pursed

Her change purse was always hungry, but today she had nothing to feed it. I’m hungry, it said, as if she couldn’t tell. Its gold lips tarnished, its black body hollowed thin— she could see the signs for herself. Famished, it demanded to be fed. She slid her hands into the crevices of her couch but pulled up only dust. She shook the vacuum bag, hoping to hear the rattle of a coin. There’s nothing here, she apologized. Anything, anything, the purse begged, mouth gaping open like the beak of a newborn bird awaiting its worm. I’m so sorry, she muttered, thinking of all she’d spent that day—the dress; the books; her fare for the ride back home. The purse wheezed, its stomach full of air. It opened its mouth wide and clamped it closed repeatedly, making a clicking sound that drove her crazy. All right! she cried. There had to be something. The purse moaned, complaining of lightheadedness. It said I feel faint. She took it up in her arms and rocked it, cooing a lullaby. It curled against her breast and nuzzled. Its hunger-chapped lips closed around one of her blouse’s dime-shaped buttons and tugged. Her blouse, delicate as all expensive things are, was not meant for such violence. Another tug took the button right off— it fell into the abyss of the purse’s mouth, leaving behind a lonely thread. She slapped the greedy mouth closed, quickly fastening its lips shut before it hungered for more.


Amina Gautier is the author of three short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy, and The Loss of All Lost Things. At-Risk was awarded the Flannery O’Connor Award; Now We Will Be Happy was awarded the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction; The Loss of All Lost Things was awarded the Elixir Press Award in Fiction. Her flash fiction appears in Blackbird, Boston Review, Hong Kong Review, Latino Book Review, Mississippi Review, Nelle, Pleiades, Quarter After Eight, Quarterly West, River Styx, and Southeast Review. For her body of work she has received the PEN/MALAMUD Award for Excellence in the Short Story.