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By Shayla Frandsen

“Please eat,” my husband will beg me. “Can I make you a sandwich?” I wish it were as simple

  as a sandwich. Nobody wishes more than me. I look at him and say, “I can’t.” I say, “Not

   right now.” I say, “Please, don’t look at my body. You will not like what you see.” I

    know this thing that I dothat I can’t stop doingis draining me dry from the inside; I

     know it is the reason for the headaches, the dizziness, the exhaustion, the brain fog.

      Nobody knows better than me. It is a pestilence, that I cannot stop starving myself.            

       Sometimes it seems like all I know. A habit, an identity, a fixation. I hold the truth

        away from my children, arm’s length, and I know that I will keep holding it from

         them. But this is a song in a minor key, and children are perceptive. They watch,

          hungry like wild animals, and one day—I do not know when, but my oldest, she

            nearly has ears to hear the song—they will see, and they will know. They

             will know why Mama lifts her shirt and watches her stomach in the mirror

              and why Mama opens the refrigerator and stares inside only to shut it again,

               and they will know why Mama lies on the bed with her eyes closed and

                asks for a minute, just one more minute, of quiet. I know all of this 

                  but I cannot stop. I will keep my secret from them as long as

                   I can and I will listen to their loud gulps of water and milk and

                    I will fill their plates high with food and I will exult at the sight and

                     I will not say a word except “Who’s ready for more?” And I will

                      tickle their bellies tight full of food, and I will give them rasp-

                       berries and strawberries and blackberries piled like marauder’s

                         jewels and warm brothy soup and toast topped with coins

                          of melted butter, and I will give them scrambled eggs and

                           syrup-drenched pancakes and cupcakes and McDonald’s

                             if they want it, and I will give them golden pizza and

                               when they ask for more soft cheese or breadsticks

                                or English muffins or dripping chicken torn right

                                 from the body. I will be the mother wolf prowling

                                   for flesh in the snow and I will fill their plates

                                    whenever they want. I will carry a fat slice of

                                      meat in my mouth and drop it in the doorway

                                       like a lioness returned from her hunt,

                                        and I would give them my heart right out

                                         of my chest if they asked for it, and I will

                                          give them all that I keep from myself

                                           so they can be cozy and safe in the

                                            cavern den of my hollow chest

                                             and they will howl with joy

                                              and I will shrink and slow and

                                                 lament until the end the

                                                  stomach and hips and

                                                    thighs that stretched

                                                       the wide span of

                                                          the world to

                                                            bring my


                                                             here to




A Best of the Net nominee, Shayla Frandsen earned her MFA in fiction at Brigham Young University. She previously earned an MA in English at The City College of New York. She is currently an adjunct professor of English at Utah Valley University. Her writing can be found or is forthcoming in New England Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Under the Sun, Blood Orange Review, Literary Mama, Irreantum, and others. She was awarded first place in both the 2023 Plentitudes Prize in Fiction and the Blue Earth Review Dog Daze Flash Fiction contest. She also received an honorable mention in The Exposition Review’s April 2023 Flash Fiction 405 contest and was shortlisted for The Master’s Review Novel Excerpt Contest.