Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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4651 words
SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

Fisher of Herms

by Roisin McLean

“Correct change, sir—sorry, ma’am.” The bus driver’s eyes question her rugged, rectangular face and flick down past her shapeless coat to her too-dainty-for-her-height, faux-fur-trimmed boots. He coughs and hands back a rumpled dollar bill. “Ten more cents,” he drones, staring at the masses on 42nd Street. Asha digs in her coat pocket for a dime—final fare from a life suffered to one she now dares to reclaim, thanks to Dr. Bida Zuglische’s miracle treatment, H-lipo.

The bus strains uptown. Asha teeters and sprawls on the arm of a man so obese his massive buttocks overflow two seats. He jerks awake.

“I’m sorry!” Asha’s shrill falsetto draws momentary stares. She recovers her balance, composure, and husky alto, which attracts new stares. “But thank you for—” (an arm like a king-size pillow?) “—breaking my fall.”

His waking eyes lift to her long face and prominent brow. She absorbs his appearance. Striking blue eyes. Flowing, shoulder-length, silver hair. Soft, touchable lips curved in smile. His demeanor: delicate, sensitive, and effeminate, out of sync with his suit jacket, tie, and immensity. Her complete opposite. And yet—a hermaphrodite!? Seems unlikely, given the rarity. She squeezes past and unzips her coat.

She totters sideways down the aisle through pockets of Old Spice cologne, marijuana-steeped wool, curry, a phlegmy flu, dried sweat newly wet. Some passengers peer at her thick eyebrows and horsy face and wend their way down past small bosom to unzip her pants—how do city people do that? What can they learn? Truth? Brotherly love? Or fuel to fire “us against them.” Oh, to flounce into a men’s lav with swirls of feather boa to appall them all. But they’re not worth her trouble, not anymore, not now. A pothole jolt plops her into empty seats in back. 43rd Street. The countdown begins, she thinks, but to be precise, as she always is, she must count up for uptown.

Asha settles in to wait, but migraine begins to gnaw her brain. Far above the city, she imagines, Zeus has signaled to spoil her fun and grips the bowl of her mind for lesser gods to feast. Zeus—useless and treacherous like the God of her youth. She fills her mouth with saliva, swallows two Fiorinal, and counts by thousands to 47, her age. 47th Street. How synchronistic.

Up front, the fat man suffers a sneezing attack. He needs a good pat on the back, but no one moves, so Asha does nothing. When in Rome, Greece, Manhattan. 48th Street.

Battling headache and gods in the usual way, she composes life’s real-time script. Her eyes pan Manhattan through soot-dark windows. Theatre marquees spill into west 40’s canyons merging east and west with sky above rivers. Gargoyles and griffins glare from gothic cornices. Well-groomed executives shunt a bag lady in grimy plaid coat and pink bunny slippers. A disheveled man urinates on Bank of America. A vendor’s black fingerless gloves conduct commerce through steam at a roasting-chestnuts cart. 57th Street.

Cradled in city movement, bus pitch, and medication, her mind drifts to the past year of wormlike food: microwaveable noodles in a cup, a steaming spaghetti test strand tossed at the wood cupboard—done, if it sticks upright; not, if it flops. Slow-motion drop of last grayed and torn bra into rainy day’s waste can—go bra-less, want not. Cut to bathroom wall and a fly’s faceted eyes reflecting a hundred views of a limp penis—hers. Ad nauseam, assembly-line freelance editing. Growing bank account. Close-up on checkbook and the magic number: the fee for H-lipo, new a year ago, per the website of Dr. Bida Zuglische. H-lipo manipulates a hormone, leptin, the catalyst for women’s menses and menopause. An injected chemical-hormone mixture, which “Dr. Bi” did not name, reduces leptin production to a trickle. A second injection, this a chemical and amino acid combination, also unnamed, binds remaining leptin to fat, neatly removed via liposuction. Voilá, an official adios to biological woes: true herms reborn sans “the curse” and “on-the-rag” hissy fits—sans hot flashes, night sweats, and the not-a-tickle/not-a-tingle unassaugeable aargh in the arch of each foot. Free to play at man or no-nonsense businesswoman, effective this afternoon. 63rd Street.

Asha leans her face on the cold window, away from the greasy spot, squinting in search of skyscraper tops. Dark clouds shroud the upper rooms, where gods no doubt lounge and play cat’s cradle with puppet strings knotted to mortals below. 67th Street.

The final strains of the Pastoral overflow someone’s headphones. Pleasant—Beethoven calming the final movement of female strife. Scratch that, hope dashed—hot-flash sweat pours down neck to front and backside cleavage. Asha mops with her scarf. 77th Street.

“Excuse me.” Asha totters toward the front. The bus lurches right, and brakes squeal up to 78th. She fidgets behind the fat man, wedged in the aisle. He’s tall.

It’s early. A double espresso would be nice. Asha spots a Starbucks at the next corner and paces herself behind the lumbering fat man. Rock-salt boot droppings streak the terra-cotta tiled floor. The counter boy thinks they’re together—she of the manly face and he, the feminine fat man—more of a laugh than the boy will ever know. The fat man offers to buy her espresso. Incongruous, his tenor voice and gargantuan frame. She declines and aims for a pastel armchair by the window.

“Where are you headed?” The fat man, midway back in the café, motions her to a high table, a pinhead under his girth. Her feet root between him and the comfy seat with a view.

“Uptown. An appointment.” She evades the truth, paranoia a habit engrained by her mother, who taught her to hide who she is because people will never understand, hide in the locker room, skip a shower after gym—better you stink than they think you have a dick.

“With Dr. Zuglische?” he asks.

“How—?” Asha mounts a bar stool at his table.

“It takes both to know both,” he says with a reassuring tilt of his womanly head.

Asha scans the café, empty except for a Jackie O wannabe, with scarf and dark glasses, face in book, secluded in the back corner near a fake potted palm. Books scattered on her table.

Asha peers into his eyes, so blue. “Is that Big Apple code? You’re a—hermaphrodite?”

“They call it ‘intersex’ now, for political correctness,” he says.

“What are the odds?” she wonders aloud, brown eyes moon-sized but not yet trusting.

“This Starbucks probably sees more herms, pre or post H-lipo, than any establishment in the city,” he says.

“It’s a group treatment?” Asha asks in astonishment.

“No, but one person a case study does not make.” He shifts for better purchase on the wooden stool.

“I’m confused. I’ve been saving for a year for a miraculous treatment that’s strangely not front-page news, and you call it a case study?” Asha’s gaze falls to his big-boned wrists, to the knuckle dimples behind each sausage finger, to the tabletop, faux marble of swirling teal to complement the café’s sea-and-earth color palette.

“Dr. Zuglische will never get government grants, and no one can benefit until trials are run. That’s where we come in—we and other herms who find the H-lipo website. We are funding the next social revolution.” His smile of authority reveals extraordinarily white teeth.

“What do you mean?” Asha asks, flushed with stupidity.

“Once we guinea pigs prove H-lipo works, the treatment can benefit women worldwide.” His face radiates magnanimity.

All females? She’s been planning for a year to become male after H-lipo. Yet another trick of Zeus and his cronies: tugging the carpet from under her carefully conceived plans.

“I suspect—with no proof, mind you—that Zuglische’s goal is twofold: to sever the last shackle on women’s equality, and to help herms survive. He’s probably a herm himself.”

“I thought Dr. Bi was a she,” Asha ventures.

“Dr. Bi? That’s good. I guess his—her—gender could be perceived either way from the photo on the website. Proves the point, don’t you think? In any case, the worst-case scenario if H-lipo goes awry is we get slender, svelte even, and perhaps grow wings.” He winks. “If I could hide a vagina all these years, what’s a pair of wings?”

Asha smiles with delight. Who could have known she’d meet a herm at all, let alone one with a sense of humor as huge as his ass?

“I’m Fat Man. Nice to meet you.” He reaches to shake her hand.

“You’re not fat,” Asha lies. “Fat is leaving your home in a piano crate.”

“You are a kind liar,” Fat Man says. His smiling eyes are tropical blue. Not fake contact-lens blue. True Caribbean Sea blue. His protective grasp envelops her small-boned hand.

Asha considers names. Sebastian won’t do. “Chimera. Pleased to meet you.”

He opens the first of two bottles of Fiji water lined up between them.

“Cheers! How’d you get here?” Fat Man asks.

Unused to conversation, Asha fumbles, “Do you mean in life or today?”

“Take your pick,” Fat Man says.

“Given the way my brain compartmentalizes, the story begins at age 12.” She checks her watch. “It’s eleven—my appointment’s at one o’clock—here’s the abridged version.”

“Mine’s at noon. Fire away.” Fat Man settles in, clasps his hands comfortably between sagging breasts and belly shelf.

Don’t fall for comfort and familiarity, her mother always said. Never drop your guard, her mother says in her head.

“Since my first menstruation” (Mother dearest, drop dead), “I’ve used ‘red H’s’ to describe a Host of dilemmas—H for Hormones, Herms, et cetera.” She exhales her H’s like breath in frosty air. “I discovered my first flow with Horror one summer at dawn as I squatted over a pee Hole in the ground on an overnight Hike two miles down a Hill from local Hygiene. An inauspicious welcome to womanHood. Back then, you Had to endure menstrual cramps. The school nurse, ‘Helms from Hell,’ tsk-tsked at my suffering so I Heaved on her desk. The next month, she pointed straightaway to the bathroom, and I Hurled while closing the door. Puke gushed around the frame, in and out, lovely sight. But I digress.”

Fat Man grimaces and laughs. “You had it bad!” He unscrews the blue cap of the second Fiji bottle.

Behind Fat Man, college students fling backpacks beside lounge chairs, chairs too small for Fat Man’s rump, which hangs off his stool and draws rolling eyes from the students. Fat Man excuses himself, buys two more Fijis for him and another espresso for her.

“You read my mind, thank you.” Asha continues in a quieter tone. “The night sweats started— Is this too much information?”

“Your history is uniquely yours yet affirms normalcy in mine. Please continue,” Fat Man says. They contemplate each other. Few people understand. Few herms ever meet.

She disentangles the silver earrings from her brunette mane. “The night sweats started four years ago. The periods stopped, but not the hot flashes. Screaming ‘Why me?’ at the ceiling proved futile.”

Fat Man rubs his belly like a marine biologist wets down a beached whale. “Yup, been there. So I decided to travel. Lived in an RV, which amazingly shrank. RV this big, me—” His hands spread wide. His honesty is a magnet; his voice, a compass. “Finally settled in a roomy log cabin out west. How about you?”

“I searched for relief online. I didn’t trust men to find a cure, so I explored only sites that mentioned female doctors, which meant interminable clicking, two steps back, one step forward.” Asha taps the table with her index finger.

Fat Man teases: “Don’t think I didn’t hear that streak of feminism.”

Asha smiles paternally through her Freud impersonation: “Men vahnt vomen zubzervient, zlavess to their bodiss, number two in a patriarchal zoziety. Thiz iss vell-known fact.”

As Fat Man laughs, his belly shakes like a hiccupping Shamu, like a sloshing water balloon flung from upper rooms.

“Number two as in shit,” Asha adds.

“I got there. Are you an actor, Chimera?” Still laughing, he drapes his jacket on a nearby chair, then wipes his neck and face with a clean napkin.

Asha does the same. Can it be that their hot flashes come at the same time? “I’m a copyeditor by trade, romance novels, arcane university-press manuscripts, the gamut. But I’m a director at heart—I like the control.”

Fat Man’s eyes light anew on her face, not like the gripping migraine now past.

“You were raised boy,” Asha says.

“Yes.” Fat Man gazes into middle space and memory, then smiles. “I grew to love words and context. Cast, pearl, slip, and seine? Father teaching fishing. Cast, purl, slip, and skein? Mother teaching knitting.”

“So you were cast in a dual role,” Asha adds slyly.

Fat Man’s eyes crinkle with appreciation. “No, but Mother did insist on planting seeds of choice.”

Asha ducks and whispers, “Those kids are eavesdropping.”

Fat Man glances over his shoulder and back. “They’re harmless. Too impressed with their navels to bother with old farts.”

“Thanks so much.” Asha feigns offense but can’t help grinning.

“You were raised girl,” Fat Man states.

“Yes, and I’m female at the core.” Asha sighs. “But I’ve been planning on switching to celibate man.”

Fat Man scrutinizes her face and finds no answer. “Why?”

“Because I never—. It doesn’t—. To provide for the future. I can die an old male content in my own digs with untapped money in my bank account, or an old female who outlives her savings and lands in the state nursing home fending off fondlers. I have to play man—it’s as simple as math.”

“Have to? Math? Where is the honesty, humanity, in that?” Fat Man asks with concern.

“Herms and humanity? Oil and water.” That said, she hears her own negativity, preached to one who seems to perceive more than she. “Let’s change the subject.”

“Why?” Fat Man asks in earnest, not to provoke.

She confides with sadness, “So I don’t get—ugly-er.”

He reaches verbally to console her. “‘Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.’ Beauty lies.”

Asha nods without assimilating fully. Silence menaces their conversation, the honest kind, which strangers share when they don’t expect to meet again.

He prompts with her earlier comment: “So you followed web links to hermaphroditism?”

“Yes. Herms—the cruelest prank ever played by the gods.” Asha’s displeasure pinches her lips, flares her nostrils.

“Gods plural?” he asks.

“A drunken clique contriving our pitfalls for perverse amusement. One deity would never abuse his children this way.” She searches his lips for a sign of agreement.

“Define ‘way’,” Fat Man says. His arms rest on the table like felled masts. Her slender hands, close to his, tingle. Her arm hair rises, concealed under long, pewter-gray sleeves.

She can’t fathom his need for explanation. “The way the world sees us: as freaks.”

“The world doesn’t know who we are unless we tell them. I don’t see myself as a freak. But, I agree, the world is hermaphobic.” Fat Man nods, then adds, “We all have phobic stereotypes.”

“I don’t.” Asha gasps—too-quick a response, denial exposed.

“Are you sure?” His eyebrows arch.

She studies the table. Fat people wallow in their own waists. Their drooping buttocks? Proof of rebuttals to self-control. But, in all fairness, Fat Man seems noble, no glutton, no bull.

“Once we grant ourselves permission, we can love them as ourselves, love ourselves through them,” Fat Man suggests.

Asha frowns. “How Christian.”

“I am Christian.” He pulls a silver cross and chain from inside his blue shirt.

She projectile-vomits words at his face, “If we’re made in God’s image, did Jesus have a vagina?!”

Conversation stops at the college kids’ table. The counter boy, on tiptoe, peeks over cup stacks. The Jackie O wannabe could be from Madame Tussaud’s. Asha grapples fast for a feasible explanation, finds it, fills the silence with a stage whisper: “You know, the line from The Vagina Monologues.” Nearby conversation resumes.

“Nice cover,” Fat Man whispers. He excuses himself and heads for the restrooms. Out of sight of the others, he catches Asha’s eye. He points to the Mens Room door, scratches his head in puzzlement, squeezes into the Womens Room. Asha laughs so hard she almost pees. Fat Man returns, breathing heavily. The stool complains under his weight.

“How often do you do that?” Asha asks, still convulsed with delight.

“Whenever someone needs a laugh,” Fat Man says with kindness.

“Thank you, and please forgive my outburst.” Asha whispers, “I truly am curious—Do you believe Jesus had a vagina?”

Fat Man’s instant response: “If He did, do you trust he could understand you, love you?”

An unsettling question. She recalls the initial warmth of her Sunday school teacher. The nasty boy under the table sticking his hand up her skirt and fingering her underpants. His giggling. The teacher doing nothing about it. No scolding. No nothing, except the word spreading into taunts and conspiratorial grins. Outcast in God’s house. Her mouth opens. No words form.

Fat Man leans close. “Let’s make it more tangible. I am a man, and I have a vagina—ambiguous and dysfunctional, mind you, but a vagina nonetheless. Do you think I could understand you, love you?”

“Yes.” She holds her breath.

Their eyes lock. “There’s your answer.” He leans back and pounds the table like a judge’s gavel. The students glance over but continue talking.

“Fundamentalists would burn you at the stake,” Asha whispers, intrigued. His silver hair gleams like angora in the sun. “Do you have a significant other?” She ponders her brave words, new and satisfying.

“I’m not partnered, but I’ve attracted a chubby chaser or two.” He winks.

She tries not to laugh at her image of him on top, a limbed ton of granite deflating his lover’s lungs. He drains the fourth Fiji, which seeps from his skin in armpit sweat rings.

Dare she ask? Yes, it’s logical. “You’ll stay male after H-lipo?”


Asha runs her fingers around the espresso cup rim. “If God made us in his image, why do you want to change?”

“Call it an exercise in free will,” Fat Man says.

Too cryptic. Her face drops. Although, if she adopts a male persona, and he female, there is still a chance for—commingling. “I like your eyes,” she says before thinking.

“I like your eyes, too,” says Fat Man, quietly, which, just like that, sets Asha’s body on fire. She tries to keep surprise and “love me, for God’s sake, please” off her face. God singular?

“I want to explore myself and female voice,” Fat Man explains. “I’m a writer. Lover of words, symbols, and myth. Technical writer by day, mostly software manuals, lucrative contracts. Fiction writer by night.”

“A writer,” she repeats. Titillation of the mind is a magnificent turn-on.

Fat Man’s curiosity, Bunsen burner blue in each iris, crests in waves that wash through her eyes and down, to pool warm down there, lapping against and in. Fiction by night. Fusion by candlelight. Asha’s modesty slips to her ankles under his visual probe, which tongues and sucks in tantalizing foreplay. Her code of celibacy yields like a virgin’s hymen.

“There are other ways,” Fat Man says.

“Ways to what?” asks Asha, wide-eyed, fearful he refers to the Kama Sutra, which she’s never read.

“Ways to study female voice and myself. But H-lipo will be faster. Once leptin is removed, at least this once, I hope to assess what doesn’t feel ‘normal’ or what does, assuming the answer’s in the contrast. Time will tell.”

“How long?” Asha asks. The passion she’d sought futilely for so long, and finally spurned, now burns in throat, virgin’s vagina, and penis-size clitoris afire with desire but lifeless, superfluous. She could part her legs under the table and grasp him tight, again and again while enfolded in his massiveness, filled, embraced by the filler, merging—a dream of lust masquerading as love in the dreamer’s eye. Lust lies in the eye of the beholder. Lust lies.

Fat Man whispers, “Long enough to prove who I am.”

Asha swims nude in his eyes, lapis lazuli and turquoise in a Caribbean inlet. In let. Let in. Leptin. Sirens slice the air, and red lights blip across Starbucks’ walls. The fake Jackie O stares at her page.

“Where have you been all my life?” Asha winces at her boldness and the worn cliché.

“Mostly traveling. Home is Parks, a tiny town between the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff. You?”

“Home is Pomona, Pennsylvania, between the Poconos and coal country.”

Fat Man smiles. “Pomona, goddess of abundance—horns of plenty! Our P’s, your H’s—pH, alkaline and acid, balanced. Could be a sign.”

Asha shrugs, suddenly shy. “Only that we’re both and neither. In between.” The sheets. Is there a back room here? No time.

“May we exchange emails?” Fat Man writes his address on a napkin.

She pulls a notepad from her purse, prints neatly, glances at her watch. “Time for you to go.” Stool legs scrape.

“Give me a hug, Chimera, my new friend,” Fat Man says, opening his arms wide.

“Call me Asha.” She presses her breasts into his. His arms envelop her like a plumped goose down quilt. Despite the rotunda of his abdomen, impressive arousal lower down. He’ll feel no movement in her down there, not that kind. His question answered? His sweat rings have no smell. Does he like her jasmine scent?

“Call me Simon. After H-lipo, let’s meet downtown at the TKTS kiosk, 47th and Broadway. Six o’clock? I’ll get tickets for Phantom of the Opera. We’ll have dinner first. My treat.” Fat Man holds her coat just so, and she slips her arms easily into the sleeves as though they’d perfected the act over years.

“I’m dying to see it,” Asha says. “But I’d miss my bus home.”

“I’m staying downtown in Tribeca, at a B&B with some vacancies. It’s safe.” Fat Man’s assurance is matter-of-fact. “All spacious rooms complete with toiletries. A gourmet breakfast: eggs Benedict, crêpes with sour cream, fresh cantaloupe with berries.”

“We’ll make a night of it!” That’s not what she means! Or is it? “I mean—” Falsetto voice again.

“‘Make your choice’,” he says sternly, then breaks into a grin. “A line from Phantom. There’s no pressure, Asha. I’m as comfortable with you as alone.”

She lowers her eyes, not wishing to reveal her disappointment.

“And that’s as comfortable as anyone can ever be.” His voice soothes, and his hand presses lightly against the small of her back in gentlemanly guidance toward the door. His touch rekindles fire. Asha conceives the script fast: Thrust him back on the stool and straddle him tight, unbuckle his belt as he raises her skirt, his immense paunch an impenetrable wall that blocks what she seeks, his redwoodian manhood. Her pelvic bones stretch; fine fractures permit a full ten centimeters. Cut! She’s seeking her manhood (right?), not his, not giving birth. Brakes screech over on Broadway. He’ll burn for blasphemy, she for fickleness and lust.

“Why don’t you go ahead, Simon.” Asha nods at the door. “I’ve got to see a woman about a horse.”

He squeezes her hand tenderly, says, “Let go, let God,” and kisses her smack on top of the head where it is soft during infancy until the skull fuses.

En route uptown, he passes the café windows. Pausing, he peers in and salutes, then waddles from view, all four hundred pounds of him. The college students mimic waddling in their chairs but seem genuinely embarrassed when they realize she’s watching. She heads for the restroom.

On the tiled wall over the sink, the spell breaks as surely as if mirror shards flew. Too old for romantic nonsense, too set in her ways. For a year, driven by one goal with a lifetime of reasons. Plan A never needed a letter before, yet its rationale can’t hold a candle to passion; Plan B, an adolescent dream of requited love. H-lipo changes hormones. Will she still be her, afterward? Should she risk a death of sorts to live, or risk a life of sorts to love? Why does desire confuse the issue at the eleventh hour?

The students are gone. She stops by Jackie O—clever, up close, how lifelike the mannequin’s hands. Some joker has turned her book upside down. The purple stripe on the side seems oddly provocative; purple is her favorite color. “Read and Share,” says a sign by the scattered books. Asha removes the thick paperback, Kerrigan’s Copenhagen, tucks it into her purse, and props a different book in the motionless hands.

Each step uptown toward Dr. Bi’s clinic confuses Asha further until she stops, too unsure to proceed, her boots inside large shoe prints on a dusting of snow. A downtown bus strains to the curb. Its door hisses open. She mounts the steps on shaking legs and sinks to a seat. Fingering the white napkin with Fat Man’s—Simon’s—contact info, she watches the city slip by her window. Snow settles and melts on subway-heated sidewalks, coats people like confectioners’ sugar. Their heads hang penitent before wind-flung flakes. Humanity, fallen from grace? Snow falls from the heavens, from grace, on all of God’s diverse children, yes? Simon’s napkin doesn’t answer.

A woman behind her reads aloud in a Southern drawl. “Central Park is itself a work of art, including 80 statues and monuments. Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates—7,500 saffron banners, free-hanging from saffron vinyl frames—is free to the public and open February 12th through 28th. Viewed from buildings surrounding the park, the closely spaced banners simulate a golden river winding through leafless branches, highlighting 23 miles of pedestrian paths.”

Restless, bewildered, she gets off the bus at 72nd, dons scarf and dark glasses against brilliant snow. Eastward lie open gates crowned with saffron banners, which billow with chill breeze and beckon like ritual to wandering pilgrims. She walks toward and among playful throngs, following snowy footpaths festooned with sunny orange. She pauses transfixed at frenetic yet frozen bronze wings—the Eagles and Prey statue. More like horns of a dilemma: a snow-coated woolly goat is wedged in a cleft, between a rock and a hard place; piercing its back is an eagle’s talon, like a liposuction hose.

Further east to “Christopher Columbus,” bold explorer, who gazes heavenward with outstretched arm, palm raised. Amid those gathered at the statue, a father reads to his blind teenage daughter, whose long chestnut hair flies free on the wind: “scoffed at before,/ during the voyage, menaced,/ after it, chained,/ as generous as oppressed,/ to the world he gave a world.” The teen smiles and catches snowflakes on her tongue. Church bells flood the changing wind with a hymn from Asha’s youth, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” She heads south toward their peal. “There is none beside Thee,” the blind girl sings in as pure a soprano as a Vienna Choirboy. Asha turns. The girl smiles through her as at a distant steeple.

Orange banners flap and swirl like matador capes, guiding Asha toward the bells—toward transportation home or TKTS kiosk. Past South American “El Libertador,” Simon Bolivar, whose breathless steed is frozen pawing air above a boiling saffron sea. Liberator. Simon. Lover of words, symbols, and myth. Simon, “Fisher of Herms.” He will like that, even after H-lipo. She pulls notepad from purse and prints, “Buy underwear.” Hanes? she wonders, pen in air. She pictures her usual plain-Jane white cotton. “Hardly.” The lone word gusts with her breath and disappears. She writes in cursive on the pad, and her words billow and dance on the wind, “Heliotrope satin.” Ice crystals fall, frozen in perfection for an infinite second, melt, and bleed her inked words.


—Originally published under a different pen name in a slightly modified version in Perigee: A Publication for the Arts, October 2009 (Vol. 7, Issue 2)

Notes from the Webmaster:


SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

Roisin McLean

earned an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from Fairleigh Dickinson University, has been nominated four times for the prestigious Pushcart Prize, and was a semifinalist for The Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction (Nimrod/Hardman).

She has published fiction (under various pen names) in Perigee: Publication for the Arts, Fiction Week Literary Review, Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts, and Pithead Chapel.

Her essays appear in Winter Tales II: Women on the Art of Aging, in OH SANDY! A Humorous Anthology with a Serious Purpose (all profits of which benefit survivors of Hurricane Sandy), and in Runnin’ Around: The Serving House Book of Infidelity. Her interviews with ex-pat author Thomas E. Kennedy appear in The McNeese Review and Ecotone.

Ms. McLean is currently finalizing a short story and novella collection, which will be published in 2015. She has worked as Managing Editor for Macmillan Publishing Company and in hands-on book production for other publishing houses, both on staff and freelance.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury