CARMEN MARIA MACHADO | HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES

This is an extraordinary collection of short stories, an exceptional new voice in the literary world. Apparently, she has a memoir being published next year. I will be first in line at the nearest bookstore to buy it!
“I have always been a teller of stories. When I was a young girl, my mother carried me out of a grocery store as I screamed about toes in the produce aisle. Concerned women turned and watched as I kicked the air and pounded my mother’s slender back. “Potatoes!” she corrected when we got back to the house. “Not toes!” She told me to sit in my chair—a child-sized thing, built for me—until my father returned. But no, I had seen the toes, pale and bloody stumps, mixed in among those russet tubers. One of them, the one that I had poked with the tip of my index finger, was cold as ice, and yielded beneath my touch the way a blister did. When I repeated this detail to my mother, something behind the liquid of her eyes shifted quick as a startled cat. “You stay right there,” she said. My father returned from work that evening, and listened to my story, each detail. “You’ve met Mr. Barns, have you not?” he asked me, referring to the elderly man who ran this particular market. I had met him once, and I said so. He had hair white as a sky before snow, and a wife who drew the signs for the store windows. “Why would Mr. Barns sell toes?” my father asked. “Where would he get them?” Being young, and having no understanding of graveyards or mortuaries, I could not answer. “And even if he got them somewhere,” my father continued, “what would he have to gain by selling them amongst the potatoes?” They had been there. I had seen them with my own eyes. But beneath the sunbeam of my father’s logic, I felt my doubt unfurl. “Most importantly,” my father said, arriving triumphantly at his final piece of evidence, “why did no one notice the toes except for you?” As a grown woman, I would have said to my father that there are true things in this world observed only by a single set of eyes. As a girl, I consented to his account of the story, and laughed when he scooped me from the chair to kiss me and send me on my way.”
“Beyond the table, there is an altar, with candles lit for Billie Holiday and Willa Carter and Hypatia and Patsy Cline. Next to it, an old podium that once held a Bible, on which we have repurposed an old chemistry handbook as the Book of Lilith. In its pages is our own liturgical calendar: Saint Clementine and All Wayfarers; Saints Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt, observed in the summer with blueberries to symbolize the sapphire ring; the Vigil of Saint Juliette, complete with mints and dark chocolate; Feast of the Poets, during which Mary Oliver is recited over beds of lettuce, Kay Ryan over a dish of vinegar and oil, Audre Lorde over cucumbers, Elizabeth Bishop over some carrots; The Exaltation of Patricia Highsmith, celebrated with escargots boiling in butter and garlic and cliffhangers recited by an autumn fire; the Ascension of Frida Khalo with self-portraits and costumes; the Presentation of Shirley Jackson, a winter holiday started at dawn and ended at dusk with a gambling game played with lost milk teeth and stones. Some of them with their own books; the major and minor arcana of our little religion.”