Carmen Maria Machado

One of my favourite stories is about an old woman and her husband – a man mean as Mondays, who scared her with the violence of his temper and the shifting nature of his whims. She was only able to keep him satisfied with her unparalleled cooking, to which he was a complete captive. One day, he bought her a fat liver to cook for him, and she did, using herbs and broth. But the smell of her own artistry overtook her, and a few nibbles became a few bites, and soon the liver was gone. She had no money with which to purchase a second one, and she was terrified of her husband’s reaction should he discover that his meal was gone. So she crept to the church next door, where a woman had been recently laid to rest. She approached the shrouded figure, then cut into it with a pair of kitchen shears and stole the liver from her corpse.

That night, the woman’s husband dabbed his lips with a napkin and declared the meal the finest he’d ever eaten. When they went to sleep, the old woman heard the front door open, and a thin wail wafted through the rooms. Who has my liver? Whooooo has my liver?

The old woman could hear the voice coming closer and closer to the bedroom. There was a hush as the door swung open. The dead woman posed her query again.

The old woman flung the blanket off her husband.

– He has it! She declared triumphantly.

Then she saw the face of the dead woman, and recognized her own mouth and eyes. She looked down at her abdomen, remembering, now, how she carved into her own belly. Next to her, as the blood seeped into the very heart of the mattress, her husband slumbered on.

That may not be the version of the story you’re familiar with. But I assure you, it’s the one you need to know.


“The Husband Stitch”

Carmen Maria Machado

Vic's Reading Inn

On my blog: this week selection of the best speculative short fiction I’ve read recently


A weekly selection of the best pieces of speculative short fiction I’ve read recently. Sit back with your mug of Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster and devour everything while I take care of your free refill.

Last week I lost my internet connection because of a kite: a sharpened kite string with cerol (a mixture of glue and crushed glass) damaged the cable, leaving it naked and barely hanging on…

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and cut with Benson’s normal dreams: sex with Stabler, apocalypses, teeth falling out, teeth falling out of Benson onto Stabler while they fuck on a boat as the Flood wipes everything away.

-carmen maria machado, “especially heinous: 272 view of law & order svu”

'I'm not a professor'

“Before class on the first day of my first adjuncting job, I put my name on the whiteboard, and on a lark wrote “Prof.” before it. I even took a photo. Then I lost my nerve, erasing the letters with the heel of my hand, leaving behind a gray smear. Now, when students address me as “professor” in e-mails—even though I’ve told them to call me by my first name—it strikes an odd note, a plunk of mislaid fingers on a piano. I’m not a professor. If I disappeared at the end of the semester, the school would replace me without much trouble, having invested nothing at all in my career. This sensation—a great responsibility, precariously held—is also like nothing else I’ve experienced.

I don’t want to give away my expertise for so little. But I don’t want to stop teaching, and I don’t want my students to be afraid to reach out to me after we part, either—I don’t want them to do what I would have done. I thrive on their news: they’re heading to graduate school, or they’re submitting work to be published, or are publishing, or have a new project. I don’t only want to teach; I want teaching to be a career, something that I can afford to keep doing.

The irony of this setup has not escaped me: the adjuncts who teach well despite the low pay and the lack of professional support may inspire in their students a similar passion—prompting them to be financially taken advantage of in turn. It strikes me as a grim perversion of the power of teaching. A key lesson in higher education is that few things matter more than good questions—and, if we don’t speak up, students will never know what to ask.” O Adjunct! My Adjunct! (The New Yorker)
Short Story Rec: Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead by Carmen Maria Machado

This is the thing about my sister and I: we’ve never gotten along, even when we’ve gotten along. This is what happens when you have parents who fetishize family, and the viscosity of their blood relative to water: you resent the force with which they push you together with this person who is, genetics aside, a stranger. And that’s what my sister is: a stranger.

From me: I can’t remember the last time a story sucker-punched me so effectively. It’s amazing.