The online literary journal Gemini Magazine has just released its February issue. Their short fiction contest, with a top prize of $1,000, will be accepting entries through May 1, for the ridiculously cheap fee of $4 per story, any length. So far my favorite piece in this issue is Sharla Benson’s “The Shower”, in which a young African-American woman pays the price of estrangement from her childhood friends when she tries to assimilate into white middle-class society:
“What you mean you ain’t going? You betta go!”
Diane paced back and forth while squeezing the phone so
tight her palm began to sweat. If only she had the ability
to hang up on her mother she would have pushed end that
very second. But she knew better.
“Now you known Cora all your life, and you’ll get to see
Madison,” her mother added with a softer tone. “I’m sure
she’ll be there too.”
Diane sighed. If that point was supposed to persuade her
to go, then she was still trying to find a valid excuse as to
why she shouldn’t. She loved Cora and Madison. As little
girls and teenagers they’d spent many Saturday hours in
Mrs. Mary’s beauty shop reading old Jet, Ebony and Black
Hair magazines, laughing and gossiping under the harsh
heat of the dryers while waiting to have their kinks
straightened with a steaming hot comb.
“Ahh! You burned my ear!” Diane would always yell when it
was her turn.
“Dat’s just the heat,” Mrs. Mary would reply sharply. “Keep
The three of them shared their dreams of the perfect man,
the number of children and the type of house they wanted,
believing that they would be best friends forever to see it
all happen for one another. But, people change and one
day playing a good game of hide and seek or house with
your baby dolls isn’t the only thing friends argue about.
“Ya’ll grew up on the same street,” Diane heard her mother
continue. “And that poor chile—it’s been Cora’s cross to
bear to have her womb strong enough to hold babies. But
now the good Lord has finally blessed her with one. So,
you will be goin’ to her baby shower. You hear me girl?”
She heard her loud and clear. But she also heard the even
louder voice in her head telling her that she did not want
to see Madison. What had transpired between the three of
them the last time they were together had not been pretty.
“Danisha! Are you listen’ to me?”
“Huh? Yes ma’am.” The call of the name she had laid to
rest a long time ago brought her back to the present. Very
few people still called her by her given name and that was
the way she preferred it.