Reprint: The Joker

an origin story

This story first appeared on my Patreon, and later on Annika Obscura, in 2018. Content warning for self-harm and sexual harassment.

It wasn’t anything special, the one that broke her. It was, comparatively speaking, a minor offense. Just a whistle—a compliment, as so many people had assured her—followed with a “Smile, love” when she glanced in the whistler’s direction. But she was tired.

She went home and sat at her dressing table. Vanity. She hated that word, vanity. It wasn’t vain to look at your own face.

“Smile, love.”

She picked up her favorite lipstick, the bright red one, and traced her lips. She kept going around and around, making her mouth redder and wider and she painted on layer after layer of lipstick.

Then, just as suddenly as she’d needed to apply the makeup, she wanted it off, off, OFF. She wiped at it with a tissue, but it barely touched it. She tried a wet wipe and only succeeded in smearing the red stain larger.

She walked to the kitchen and picked up a knife.

She scraped the lipstick off, cutting her lips out of her face until no man would ever again tell her to smile, because now her entire face was a smile, a great grinning maw.

She laughed.

What I'm Reading: July

Quick recommendations for good stuff to read online

I read a lot of stories and articles online, and sometimes I think to tweet a link to the good ones, but sometimes I don’t think of it and then I forget where I read that one story, or I remember but I forget to tell anyone else. So! I am collecting them to share monthly(ish) here. Enjoy! And please send me links to good stuff I should read. (Please note that I will only read stuff by or about white cis men if there’s, like, a reason for their white cis maleness. I don’t like it when homogeny is shoehorned in.)

This month’s reading skewed nonfiction, as most of my fiction reading was books. (Should I also do this roundup for books I read?)


Filament by Lyndsie Manusos: Brilliant, sharp, creepy flash fiction horror story. If Shirley Jackson and Samantha Mabry’s stories had a baby, it might be this story.

Five Stories in the Monsoon Night by Nghi Vo: I’m not even sure how to describe this story! It is just really, really good. And there are noodles. If you like being read to, C.S.E. Cooney’s narration is excellent as always.

Unfilial Child by Laurie Tom: A beautifully written story about family, steeped in a Chinese mythology that is totally unfamiliar to me, and with an ending that I might describe as “Lovecraftian, if he’d ever written anything good.”


The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser: Ten days after calling off her engagement, the author went on a birding trip to observe the dwindling whooping crane population in the gulf coast. Of course, she learned about a lot more than birds.

Dear Internet, The Little Mermaid Also Happens To Be Queer Allegory by Gabrielle Bellot: Did you know Hans Christian Andersen wrote “The Little Mermaid” after the man he pined for married a woman? ME NEITHER.

Excuse Me, May I Raise Your Child? by Farai Chideya: Devastating piece by a three-time adoptive mother with no child, and how the adoption industry fails both birth and adoptive parents.

Honey Bees, Worker Bees, and the Economic Violence of Land Grabs by Melissa Chadburn: Almost dreamlike meditation on exactly what the title says. Are environmental concerns only for people privileged enough to go vegan?

I’m Scared The Darkness That Gripped Me After My Baby Was Born Will Come Roaring Back by Anne Theriault: A devastating examination of the ways the medical system (in this case Canada’s) fails mothers and how that can affect reproductive choice (in this case whether to have a second baby).

The Wildness of Girlhood by Bonnie Mary Liston: An Australian perspective on the wildness that is natural in girls, but ignored by the world at large and suppressed as we grow up.

A Woman’s Greatest Enemy? A Lack of Time to Herself by Brigid Schulte: Fuck. This is not exactly new or groundbreaking, but it’s stark and direct and fuuuuck. (I’ve written about the same thing: The Lives of Literary Wives.)

A little housekeeping note: On August 1, I will adjust the price of paid subscriptions to $8/month or $75/year. If you have been thinking about subscribing, you can still do so for $5/month or $50/year for a few more days! And as always, if you want to subscribe but cannot afford to, please send me a note and we will arrange it.

Story Reprint: "Puppy Love"

flash fiction about a man, a tattoo, and a narrow escape

“Puppy Love” was my first published piece of fiction; it originally appeared in Noneuclidean Cafe in fall 2005. Content warning for discussion of a man murdering a woman.

I liked his tattoo.
You left the bar with a strange man because you liked his tattoo?
It was a coffee shop.
Good lord, Diane, I don’t care what it was. Don’t you realize how stupid that was?
It was a broken heart.
What was?
The tattoo. You know the type, with the jagged break down the center?
Yeah, yeah, and sutures holding it together I suppose.
No. But it had a banner across it. It said "Puppy Love."
Oh my god.
I know, but Liz…it was really sweet somehow. This big, hulking-type guy, and he had other tattoos that looked like he got them in prison, or the Navy or something, and then there’s this one that’s in color, and it’s a broken heart.
I’m weeping.
It was stupid. OK? You satisfied? It was stupid and I’m lucky to be alive and we can all rest easy now he’s behind bars where he belongs.
Yeah, except you don’t think he does.
He said he did it. You were watching the news, you heard his confession. You think he did it.
Do you?
I don’t know.
Fourteen trash bags, Diane. Bits of her body in each one. And he knew where they were.
OK, he did it.
Are you in love with him or something?
Yeah. I’m in love with him.
All right, forget I said that. Sorry. I just don’t get it.
What’s to get? We were talking in the café. He asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. I said yes. Because I liked his tattoo.
Yeah, we already covered that part.
We walked along the river, under the moonlight. He swept me into his arms, and—Jesus, get that look off your face. I’m kidding. We walked about five blocks, I said I should get home, he hailed me a cab.
And he shook my hand.
And then he mauled that girl.

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