This week's edition features flash fiction by Ada Astrella, who guides the reader through the textures, dimensions, and hypotheticals of a single, still moment. It will also make you crave a peach.
The piece refers to the Old Testament story of Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt after glancing back at the doomed city of Sodom — against the directions of an angel — as her family fled from it.
Lot's wife is painted as little more than a naive casualty in the verse, but the 20th century Russian poet Anna Akhmatova later gave her some well-deserved interiority in her poem "Lot's Wife," which imagines how she felt as she left her home. The last stanza:
"Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I will never deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn."
Unsurprisingly, Ahkmatova's version is what Astrella's narrator prefers: By finally acknowledging the character's complex fear, joy, and longing, it also acknowledges theirs.
Context is just the salt in the smoothie here, though: Astrella's work speaks best for itself. Be sure to read it below!
A few reminders:
We're open for submissions on the theme of Salt until June 30. Please send your work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PDF version of Issue 1 is still available on our website for $10, as well as print copies and tote bags for $15 each. We are donating all June proceeds to Flatbush United Mutual Aid. The PDF won't be there forever, so get a copy if you've been meaning to!
In the morning when nothing happens
By Ada Astrella
I’m eating a peach over the sink with one hand, grabbing a napkin with the other even though it’s too late; the juice is down my arm. Almost too late for the peach, too, but I saved it. Can never decide whether to leave the peaches out in a bowl or put them in the crisper. Out, their skin shrivels faster. In the crisper, they risk being forgotten. And then, either way, I might have to desperately reimagine them as jam or filling for a galette, which never tastes as good with the desperation baked in. This one is cold from the crisper. The college students whose yard backs up against ours must have built a fire last night. I think I heard their music when I went to check the oven, even though I didn’t use it that day. The uncovered fire is still smoking, and I can smell it. If I were a mother, I would be upset with them. I put my elbow on the countertop, and it’s gritty with salt that got away from the saltcellar. Some people say you should salt all foods, including smoothies. I always think about trying it then don’t. No one would tell me to salt this peach, and I wouldn’t either. Unless it preserved me right here, alone with the lights off in my kitchen holding a peach in one hand and the smell of burnt wood coming in through the screen. I’d be frozen like Lot’s wife, if you squint. But Anna Akhmatova’s version, the version I like. Except I am insignificant. And because there is no destruction behind me, no man next to me — I’m really only turning toward the kitchen window. By the time the kids wake up, the fire and the peach will both be just pits, and I’ll have walked away.
About the Artist
Ada Astrella is a fiction writer from New Jersey.