SmokeLong Quarterly
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by Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau

The child is resilient. At night, I wrap my hands around its clay skin, squeeze tight until the flesh swells like sausage. The child just squirms and feigns sleep. In the morning it is there again, clasped to my ankle, tracking dust as I pace the floor, calling me Mama.


Sometimes I manage to lock the doors, but the child slips in through the window, crawls through the pipes, a pffft of air batting the cracks in my walls. It smiles in seeing me, opens its grimy, nicked arms for a hug.


I leave the child in a cardboard box in the middle of the market, right there between slabs of pork and veined cheese. A second too quick and it's in my footsteps, a shrunken shadow, a noiseless hound nipping at my heels. I growl and bare my teeth.


The child is there again, mewling.


A day, a moment. Certainty crumbles like faith under fire. My hoisted shoulders crack from lifting. I succumb to the bitter, to the ache in my blank womb gutting me open. The child is there. The child is always there, watching me, eyes sharp like mirrors. I sob and blow it a kiss. I let it climb on my lap. I trace its cheek. I surrender.

"Blank" was first published in elimae. It appears here by permission of the author.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2015 by its authors.

Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau grew up in Manila, greased elbows in Los Angeles and currently lives in Bretagne, with the best husband in the world and a spoiled cat. She dedicates this piece to her mom, who first taught her how to love a pen.

Read the interview.
Issue Twenty (March 15, 2008): The Cockroach by David Barringer «» Trestle by Matt Briggs «» Worried & Wondering by Aaron Burch «» Dead Dog Rising by Kate Hill Cantrill «» Tinder by Chanel Earl «» Scrape by Utahna Faith «» Arlo's Big Head by Stefanie Freele «» Wei-Ch'i by Vanessa Gebbie «» Last Fall by Katherine Grosjean «» David Dreams of Australopithecines by Savannah Schroll Guz «» The Last Stop by Jenny Halper «» Blue by Stephanie Harrison «» Cadet by Tiff Holland «» Slam by Liesl Jobson «» Beret by Darlin' Neal «» Camp by Elizabeth Oliver «» We by Patricia Parkinson «» Seconds Are Ticking By by Nik Perring «» Brother by Sue Powers «» Carol by Sophie Rosenblum «» Elizabeth Bishop by Glenn Shaheen «» Favorites by Gail Siegel «» Blank by Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau «» Medicinal by Girija Tropp «» Interviews: David Barringer «» Matt Briggs «» Aaron Burch «» Kate Hill Cantrill «» Chanel Earl «» Utahna Faith «» Stefanie Freele «» Vanessa Gebbie «» Katherine Grosjean «» Savannah Schroll Guz «» Jenny Halper «» Stephanie Harrison «» Tiff Holland «» Liesl Jobson «» Darlin' Neal «» Elizabeth Oliver «» Patricia Parkinson «» Nik Perring «» Sue Powers «» Sophie Rosenblum «» Glenn Shaheen «» Gail Siegel «» Claudia Smith «» Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau «» Girija Tropp «» Cover Art "Male Figure" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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