Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week A.A. Balaskovits writes about her new story collection, Strange folk You’ll Never Meet, out now from Santa Fe Writers’ Project.
If Strange Folk You’ll Never Meet were a fairy tale, it would not be the one anthologized for children. There is no happily ever after here, and if you think so, then there may be something wrong with you. I could recommend a therapist, or a psychiatrist if you like pills. Lately, I’ve become very good at searching for those.
If Strange Folk You’ll Never Meet was a princess trapped in a tower you’d probably be better off letting her rot there. Those ladies are always the tricky types, full of riddles and an unfortunate amount of poorly-timed curses. If you rescue her – as you will do, because what else are you in the story for? – you’ll bring her into your home and then into your bed, wrapped up like a gift to yourself for your thirty-fifth birthday. One night you’ll awaken from your sleep to find her staring at you. The sort of long-night stare with her lips open so all her teeth show. The stare to tell you she hasn’t slept at all. Not that night. Maybe not any night since you took her away from all familiar things. She’ll unwrap herself in front of you, piece by piece, until all that is left on your sheets is red.
If these Strange Folk were teeth, they would be from a familiar source. Your mother or father, the bear you kept as a child but gave away when it rejected the clever name you came up with, “Teddy”. The first teeth you lost are called milk, but like all dairy they sour and curdle once you have to get rid of childish things. Like scrunchies. Dolls. Insurance coverage. These folk are all about growing up.
If Strange were dolls, they would be matryoshka. Stacked ladies. Not the perverse kind, but the ones who, when you open her up, you find another version of her. Smaller, but no less intricately painted. You might try to keep breaking her apart, to see if there is an end inside. But there is no none, not for her or for her story, which she kept from you. It only grows inward, smaller than your eye can see, until she is the size of a paramecium, slivering up your skin to your ear. She’ll whisper: what have you done with all my shells?
A.A. Balaskovits is the author of Strange Folk You’ll Never Meet and Magic For Unlucky Girls. She is the winner of the grand prize for the Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards and has been featured in Best Small Fictions, the Wigleaf Top 50, Story, Indiana Review, and many other publications. She is the editor-in-chief of Cartridge Lit, a literary magazine dedicated to video games. Find her on Twitter @aabalaskovits.