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Poof by Nan Wigington

In that other universe, my other me, Edwina Elmira Brown, has aged too quickly. Gravity is stronger there and its fingers have latched on to her yellow gray hair and pulled until her head bows toward her chest and her rounded shoulders curtsy toward the earth, then toward one another. I, too, have a tendency to look down. Even though my body is not giving out.

Alright, my hips hitch. One knee aches.

I am a sad person. Edwina Elmira B. is not. She considers every moment a cause for celebration, a reason to joke. Here’s an example. Edwina Elmira’s neighbor, an undertaker, lost his job.

“He made a grave mistake,” she told her neighbors.

I make puns, too, but never at anyone’s expense. Never to mortification.

Edwina Elmira laughs like a hound dog. I don’t laugh all that often, but when I do, some people call me a braying mule. I guess that makes us both animals. Woof. Eeeehahh.

Neither one of us dresses well. Of all things, she prefers polyester. Pants hitched up over her childless belly. I wear jeans. Hip huggers.

I too have a childless belly. It wasn’t a choice for either of us. Babies are not like fashion. That’s what Edwina E. says. I just get sad, say, “Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

Edwina keeps her clothes darned. I wear things to holey embarrassment. Both of us are big girls. Both missed the chance to be pretty. Edwina does curl her hair every morning. It falls limply around her shoulders by noon. (It’s the gravity.) I try to keep my face clean.

Edwina E. lost her husband in a war. I have a husband, had a husband, will always have a husband. He never went to war, will always never go to war. He has loved me, loves me, will love me, will have always loved me. I hope she is jealous. All these tenses he and I find ourselves in. All these tenses she’ll never know.

Edwina lives in the suburbs. I live in the city. When she takes out the trash, she looks up the driveway at her 1950s ranch house and is satisfied. I take my recycling and compost to the edge of the alley, look down the tracks of asphalt cracks, wonder if there is something better.

Edwina E. writes stories about me. She says she does it for my improvement. I resent it, write stories about her. How ugly and old and mean she is. In my plots, her polyester tries to strangle her. Her trash mutates, duplicates, and swallows her. Her husband’s wars come to rape and kill her. To think I have such power. Poof. Bye, bye, Edwina. You’re gone.

To think I can get rid of her. I’m not so deluded...although I keep writing.

She keeps writing, too, crazy woman that she is. Even though she knows I’ll never get any better.

Nan Wigington works as a para-educator in a K-2 autism classroom. Nan’s flash fiction has appeared in Defenestration, Pithead Chapel, and Pure Slush.

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