Featured Story: “Menthol Kisses,” a Novella by Abby Stewart

by Jason Varrone

Genre: Young Adult

Type of Story: Novella

Summary: Logan is a teenager stuck between trying to live her life and simultaneously run from it. Her need to fade from a soul-crushing reality overshadows everything else after a secret abortion and the loss of a close friend. As Logan struggles with drugs, sex, and relationships, she only further digs her heels into the distasteful small town life she so badly wants to escape from.

Excerpt:
Logan was supposed to be a boy.

Her parents, Mark and Margaret, heard the the heartbeat — ba dum, ba dum — in the back room of an East Texas hospital where it was deemed too fast to belong to a girl. So, they named the unborn child Logan and set to painting the extra bedroom room robin’s egg blue. They trimmed the walls with blue bears and blue bow ties, and accented the bed with a secondhand blue quilt.

Logan was born on a warm July evening, after a brief summer rain had left the air humid and thick with mosquitoes. However, when the doctor elevated her over the operating table, it was obvious that she was lacking the physical attributes of a boy. Her parents didn’t bother changing the name; while her mother was still under the ether, Logan’s father signed the birth certificate without a second glance. He exhaled a deep sigh of mixed disappointment and relief before leaving his wife and new daughter alone in the dark hospital room. Mark walked outside to smoke a cigarette, and longed for a whiskey with ice.

Logan woke up crying in the early morning hours, surrounded by the other babies in the nursery. No one was there to soothe her. Instead, her tiny pink hands reached out hungrily, grasping for anything.

Mark settled in at the first bar he could find and began to smoke a previously pocketed cigar.

“Whiskey, neat,” he ordered.

“Celebration?” the bartender asked, nodding to the cigar.

“Yeah, I’m a father.”

“Congratulations!”

“Another girl.”

“Well aren’t little girls the most adorable things? I have one myself…”

“That’s the thing, I already got one. And I don’t really care for another.” Mark took a sip of his drink. “Can you turn up the TV?”

The bartender frowned, then backed away slowly to oblige him.

The thing was, no one was prepared to raise another girl. Logan already had an older sister, Shannon, who had come first. Shannon was blonde, fair, and perfect. Her hair was the color of hay straw, and it always somehow managed to make Logan’s own hair look dirtier, more unkempt. She possessed the unattainable accomplishment of being older.

Logan was not the first to sleep in the hand me down bassinet, or inhabit the room. She was not the first to wear bows and dresses. She was the not first to look up with watery eyes and bubble at her parents. They had a ‘better daughter’ litmus test. Nothing characterized Logan, nothing aside from the mistake of her gender.

Mark’s lack of a male heir caused him to have the occasional outburst.

When Margaret asked him to change the channel from sports, he would reply, “If there were another man in the house…”

Margaret silently continued washing the dishes, wishing she could give him what he wanted.

Logan became aware of her father’s disappointment for the first time two days before the beginning of her induction into public school. Margaret assured her youngest daughter that she would have a new dress for the first day. While her mother was asking for the checkbook, Logan hid expectantly underneath her mother’s sewing table, listening through the cracked door.

“No!”

“It’s her first day,” Margaret persisted. “I promised.”

“Well you shouldn’t have fucking done that,” he shouted. “A boy wouldn’t need a goddamn new dress.”

The sound of Margaret’s soft sobbing filled the hallway where Logan was hiding, trying to be invisible.

With a surge of determination, Logan stood up. She picked up a pair of her mother’s pink, sewing scissors. The scissors metallic blades flashed as she cautiously opened and closed them; experimenting. Her mother had warned Logan about the scissors more times than she could recall. A few more practice snips, then Logan carried the scissors carefully to the bathroom.

In a calm state, she stood in front of the mirror regarding herself. The blonde curls hung loosely in a frame around her face. She made the first cut in the front, the subsequent cuts were jagged, uneven. A pile of wheat straw hair collected in the sink.

Logan smiled at her reflection and discarded the scissors, she walked to the kitchen where her parents were quietly sharing a bottle of wine. She put on a big smile as if to assure them nothing was wrong, everything was normal, she could be just as good as a boy. She sat down in her chair at the table.

Margaret and Mark stared. Margaret started crying first, she blubbered things about Logan looking like a street urchin. Mark allowed a harsh noise to escape his throat, something between a grunt and a laugh. He stood up, and went out to their tool shed where he proceeded to comfort himself with hammers and a stashed bottle of Jim Beam.

“I didn’t run with them,” Logan assured her mother. Margaret’s tears continued and Logan’s smile faded to a confused frown.

Available at: Amazon

Author Site: Website

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