‘Midwestern Girl Is Tired of Appearing in Your Short Stories’ by Gwen E. Kirby


Photograph by Jay Greinsky

From Guernica:

Midwestern Girl goes to New York City and reminds the protagonist (of course she is not the protagonist) of everything he has left behind. He covets her innocence and despises it. When she gives up and returns home, he is sad, but not surprised.

A flick of your wrist. Midwestern Girl stands alone at a house party. The protagonist smiles at her, as if to say, Cheer up and I notice subtle things, and this reminds the reader that the protagonist is secretly sensitive, no matter what he has done or will do. He and Midwestern Girl never speak and the story leaves her to sip her beer in a corner. In the living room, the protagonist punches his best friend. Will he turn out to be like his father? He ends the night with two strangers. They walk to the East River and throw rocks into the fathomless dark deep.

A knuckle crack. Midwestern Girl walks down the street in a low-cut green blouse. As the protagonist passes, he takes a moment to admire her ample breasts before returning to his main concern, What will happen if I don’t sell these exotic macaws before Ricky demands his money? When it starts to pour, the protagonist ducks into the first door he reaches, only to find he is in a boutique sex shop. A woman is already inside—did she just come in, like him? But no. While his bangs drip into his eyes, her bland beige coat is dry. (Midwestern Girl looks down to see her low-cut top gone, her pants suddenly waist-high and itchy.) It’s sure pouring, he says, and she says, It doesn’t rain here like it does in Ohio. She must be embarrassed, he thinks, to be caught sifting through a bin of purple butt plugs. It’s a gift for my niece’s bachelorette, she says.

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