Triptych: Tania Hershman

It matters who says it

first is first and I love you for it sometimes I love you and sometimes you’re first but there are days oh my those days when I

I say, Never tell, and you tell me you will not, you won’t, but I can’t be sure of you and although

Were you first? Were you my first, my only, oh my, the only one and will there be one more, another one. Love is first of all, and first of all loves is the first to tell of it, the first to have of it and have I and you?

Have me.

Have me first.

Add Ingredients In This Order

“Have me first,” she says and they tip her in the pot. “I have no fear of it,” she says as it begins to froth. They nod, they have chosen properly with this one, at last. Everyone, watching the heat increase, remembers previous instances, remembers screams and actions they were forced to take. We had no other option, they had said to each other later, when all was clean and quiet again. “I am quite fine,” says this one, their properly chosen one, and her face is pinking nicely, it is, they think, so beautiful. This is the way it was supposed to be.

Race

This is the way it was supposed to be, with all the babies lined up in rows and then the whistle. But we can’t get them in rows. When we position one or two we turn around and three or four have shuffled, slid or fallen down. Come on, come on, we mutter. We only have two hands each, of course, there are so few of us, and more of them. The babies don’t seem to care at all. One baby sits waiting perfectly, one baby has made it to the window. Another is trying to eat the whistle. We will do this, we mumble. We pause, and then we start it all again.

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Tania Hershman is the author of three short story collections and two books of poetry and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers And Artists Companion. She has a PhD in creative writing inspired by particle physics and is working on a hybrid book about time. www.taniahershman.com

Steven John – Fiction & Special Features Editor