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FICTION / Blue / Jennifer Todhunter


Blue used to be a bull rider, used to break records. That's how I got these scars, she says displaying the criss-cross lines covering her arms, her torso, her thighs. I’ve been bucked by the biggest bulls, tamed the largest beasts. She asks if I want some sake. Sake is the only alcohol Blue will touch because she considers it pure. She says pureness is the only way to keep her demons at bay. Clean inside and out, she says. Inside and out. She places her sake decanter in a pot of boiling water and waits for it to heat. 

We play truth or dare most nights because, even after all these years, we're still getting to know each other. Blue always goes first, always picks truth. Sometimes she tells me what I want to hear. 

Why were you alone when I met you? I ask. 

Because I didn’t need anybody else, she says. 

Blue wears a leather-fringed tank while she dances, while she does the shimmy-shimmy-cocoa-bop in the living room. She closes her eyes and jumps up and down in time to the K-pop cranking from our tinny speakers. She swings her hips and tosses her hair. From across the room, I see her scars. In my heart I know they’re not from her bull riding days, not all of them anyway, but I imagine her riding a bull—imagine her holding on while it goes berserk. 

Blue once told me she cut her arm from elbow to wrist with a razor. 

Tonight, after too much sake, Blue doodles her name on the kitchen wall: Blue, Blü, Bleu, Bloo. 

Which one is it? I ask. 

It’s all of them, she says.

In the mornings, before we drink sake, we drive down country roads. We get lost in the dust that coats Blue’s truck, in the dips of the mountains that look endless from the city. Our bodies butt up against each other on the bench seat. Blue’s arm around my shoulders, my hand on her thigh. A ribbon from a bull riding competition hangs from the rearview mirror. The sun catches the gold thread woven into its red fabric, and the glint says it knows this is all Blue has. 

What did you have before me? I ask. 

I had everything, she says. I had everything. 

Blue has a daughter but rarely sees her. She lives with her dad across town. I gave her the option, she says, and she didn’t pick me.They never pick me. Her daughter is the star of her school’s basketball team, can sink a three-pointer with her eyes closed. She doesn't like it when I go to her games, Blue says. Doesn't like it when I yell for her. 

I can't imagine someone not wanting her to yell for them. 

Blue yells for me when we're sleeping hip-to-hip, shoulder-to-elbow. She lurches up and shakes me awake. The bull wouldn't let me go, she says after I calm her down, her skin a film of sweat and sadness. It had me on its horns and it wouldn't let go. I hold onto her as hard as I can, whisper, it’ll be okay, it’ll be okay, smooth her hair against her scalp. I wonder if she’ll ever be able to let go of the bull—if she even wants to—and I wonder what will happen to me when she bucks it free. 

Jennifer Todhunter's stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere. Her work has been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes. Find her at or @JenTod_.