Here is the place to honor and celebrate Vestal Review female contributors. We will add more stories here frequently.
Read women. Not just because it’s a right thing to do, not just because they deserve equal treatment, but because these are great stories.
From issue 53:
A Girl Walks on the Moon by Ruth Joffre
Her father builds it for her in the backyard: a little revolving stage painted to resemble the pocked bedrock on the Sea of Tranquility. Hills no bigger than chicken eggs rise out of the dusty, ashen wasteland, reminding her of anthills and bed knobs, while miniature craters—formed when her father pounded his fist into the cold modeling clay he used to sculpt the lunar terrain—sink in the shadows of the elm tree overhead. When she first walks on the moon, a breeze is blowing and leaves are rustling all around her. Her father brushes them off the stage, then hands her a small American flag on a stick. It flaps quietly as she walks the perimeter, gradually picking up speed. Once the stage starts revolving, it’s as if she’s walking in a straight line, taking an afternoon stroll across the surface of the moon. Behind the stage, her father has installed a big screen, onto which he projects footage from NASA’s most recent lunar mission. In silence, these images play across her face, making it appear like she’s walking not on but through the moon, then disappearing into another dimension entirely. Soon the moon in the backyard becomes a portal, and she approaches it gladly, knowingly, well aware that passing through it means leaving her father behind, perhaps forever. At the last second, she stops walking and turns her head to glance over at her father, who is standing framed by the windows of their living room, waving a long, last goodbye.
Ruth Joffre is the author of the story collection Night Beast. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review, The Masters Review, Prairie Schooner, Lightspeed, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Nashville Review, The Offing, The Journal, and elsewhere.
From issue 52:
The winner of VERA 2016:
When the Bough Breaks by Jayne Martin
Nominated by Midwestern Gothic
If they don’t get here soon, he is sure he will bust wide open. The bright yellow lily he’d picked for her this morning was already starting to wilt in the muggy heat of the Iowa noon.
Seems like it was just spring when his father had carried him up the ladder to a thicket of Juniper branches where four tiny spotted eggs rested among the carefully-arranged twigs of a sparrow’s nest.
“It’s no bigger than that right now,” his father explained.
He’d seen babies before, watched as his Aunt Ellen grew large and round as a pumpkin with his cousin Ray. He knew they took a lot longer to hatch than sparrows. His mother, too, had grown large and round as a pumpkin. Some days she could barely get off the sofa. Her ankles had become thick purple rivers emptying into swollen ponds of flesh that he would rub as she stroked his head and called him her good boy.
“She’s going to depend on you to protect her, you know,” his mother had said.
He could do that. He was good at protecting things. When their barn cat tried to climb up to the sparrow nest, he’d chased it away with the hose and it never tried that again. He would hold her hand when they walked to school bus, and teach her how to tell the good snakes from the bad ones, and when it thundered so loudly that their whole cabin shook and lightning lit up the sky for miles around, he would hide his own fear so that she would feel safe.
By then the baby sparrows had flown off, all but one that he had found lying stiff and cold at the base of the tree. When he had cried, his father said that was just nature’s way sometimes, and together they had buried it and said a prayer.
He had clung to his mother’s skirt while his father half-walked, half-carried her to their car. They told him not to worry about the blood that trailed from their doorway.
Soon dusk would begin to cast shadows like ghosts across their land. Still, he waited.
Nature was especially unforgiving that year.
Jayne Martin is a 2017 Pushcart nominee and the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award for flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Spelk, Literary Orphans, Five-2-One, Midwestern Gothic, Shotgun Honey, MoonPark Review, Blink-Ink, Cleaver, Connotation Press andHippocampus among others. She is the author of “Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry,” and lives in Santa Barbara, California. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.
From issue 51:
My lover is big, as dense as a neutron star, his eyes two cosmic lenses. When he licks my collar bone, his words roll off his tongue and settle around my neck like a choker.
“Are you ready for the roller coaster, Sweetie?” he whispers, shaking the ground, before he angles my shoulders and swallows me, his mouth opened wide, a row of white, jagged peaks, a quivering, slippery wormhole ahead.
It’s for my benefit, he claims. All of his ex-lovers are inside him, away from diseases and predators. I duck my head and let go. Past the carotid artery and trachea, I hold on to one of the ribs and stick my legs in. It almost feels like we are doing a 69 as I linger in the headstand position rubbing against his lungs, my aorta flickering as his, in its entire splendor.
I slip into the stomach and find the leftovers of his past lovers. Some couldn’t sustain the swallowing; others were not in harmony with his body. I can tell he tried to stitch some of them, but it was too late. And despite the muck and bile, it’s all beautiful: a shrine of love and hope that makes his blood more vibrant, his breath sweet, reminiscent of all. His body is a supernova where I am safe and warm.
His larynx flutters; it’s my favorite song. “Can you hear it, Sweetie?” he yells. I push my fist against his muscular abdomen. He laughs. I know what he’s thinking. No more compromises or conflicts, only true, unified love, opening and closing forever like the valves of his heart.
He says I am the strongest. I have a chance.
Tara Isabel Zambrano is an electrical engineer by profession. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lunch Ticket, Storm Cellar, The Minnesota Review, Gargoyle and others. She moved from India to The United States two decades ago and currently lives in Texas.