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WOW! Women On Writing Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners

Time: 2018-11-29 09:43cheongsam dress Click:

It was the hair Teresa noticed first.

Softer than normal body hair—thicker too—she woke to find it spreading across her breast, down her arms, and circling her neck like a Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissent collar. Rubbing her arms as though she could scrub the fur from them, she realized her fingernails had grown thick as concrete nails.

Teresa had seen other women-turned-bears—stood behind them at the deli counter, glanced sideways at them during Zumba. But Teresa, who had never been picked first or last for anything, who never won Bingo or contracted a rare disease, would be the first bear-woman at the start-up where she was already the only person of color.

It took her five minutes to put her passcode into her phone, and another five minutes to call her fiancé, Adam. By the time he answered, she was sobbing. “I have a meeting at 10, and I can’t even get clothes off hangers!”

“I’m coming over now,” he said. “We’ll get you ready.”

As a child, Teresa’s hair was a magic jungle. She was a mermaid in the bath, a wild horse when she ran. Then, her mother took her to see Elisa, who cut hair on her sun porch. Elisa had a kindly face ringed by a cloud of white hair, and she promised Teresa a lollipop. But after being draped with the plastic cape, Teresa noticed the lifeless pile of black hair on the floor. By the time the old woman picked up her scissors, every muscle in Teresa’s body was telling her to run. She leapt from the chair and hid behind the couch, impervious to her mother’s threats and bribes. No one could make her give up the source of her power.

Now her beloved curls lay scattered across her bed, still smelling like coconut oil. Teresa found her eyes full of tears. “Why me?” she demanded of her bedroom mirror. “Why today?”

***

“I have concerns about partnering with Jive,” Teresa began, placing her paws on the table. As she enumerated them, she noticed that Ryan, their CTO, was listening more intently than usually, looking at her face instead of his phone. Ryan was the one who, in her first month at CloudJam, suggested thick-rimmed glasses would make her look more “in touch.”

Was this what it took for a woman in tech to be seen as equal—claws and fur?

When she finished speaking, Ryan rocked his chair onto its back legs and stroked his oily beard. “Good points,” he said. “And I like your new voice. Very Nina Simone.”

Teresa felt a growl rumble warm and rhythmic against the inside of her chest.

The front legs of Ryan’s chair slammed back to the floor.

***

Teresa could feel Adam staring as she tore open a carton of chicken broccoli, gripped it between her paws, and shook it into her mouth.

“You know, the treatments are a lot better now,” he said. “And I’d take care of you while you recover.”

Teresa dropped the carton and sat back on her haunches. “You think I should get rehumanized?”

Only she could decide, of course. But didn’t she remember, when Adam tried “No-Shave-November,” Teresa had renamed it “No-Laid-November”? And that was a lot less hair.

Teresa looked down at the pads of her paws, sculpted yet rough like unglazed pottery. There were things she missed, of course. Snapchat streaks, sun dresses. Doing daily tasks efficiently. But sometimes it was nice to be a bear. To browse a clothing store without a salesperson tailing her. To roll in grass and nibble on dandelions with her Thursday evening meet-up. To walk home alone without carrying mace.

“What if I don’t want to change back?”

“Don’t want to?” He returned her look of hurt with his own. “You still want to get married, don’t you?”

***

Teresa, undressed to her fur, waited for the doctor on a vinyl examining chair. She was already unnerved by the sharp-looking tools on a metal tray beside her when she saw it in the corner: a plastic trash bag filled with black fur. By the time the doctor entered, every part of her was trembling.

“Ready to be human again?” he asked.

This time, her growl erupted into a roar, causing the doctor to stumble into the tray and send tools clattering to the floor.

Teresa padded past him on all fours, through the office and into the sunlight, toward the blackberry bushes three blocks away. She did not look back.

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