I Have Not Pushed Back My Cuticles with an Orange Stick Since the Nixon Administration

Kathy Fish

My mother said, This is the world we live in. She said, If I had a dollar for every time that door slammed. She said, You’ll understand when you’re older. She said, You have to pick your battles. This is called taking one on the chin, she said. This is called compromise.

This is called marriage.

My mother said, The habits of good grooming are non-negotiable. She said, A lady’s best accessory is her smile. She said, Skinny, bowed legs can be made up for with good posture. She bought the shampoo with one whole egg in every bottle. She taught me to push back my cuticles with an orange stick.

We make the most of what we are given.

My mother said, Grow petunias, they can withstand a lot of abuse. She said, Grow only what can adapt. She said, He reminds me a lot of your father. She said, I beg you not to marry him. She said, Beware when a man calls you angel. Every earthly thing you do will disappoint and enrage him.

You do not want to be any man’s angel.

I was the only girl in the 7th grade who had not been invited to the boy-girl pool party, but I didn’t know this. I just assumed and showed up. They sent me home, but one girl gave me a cupcake and I ate it walking home in my new striped bikini.

My mother said, Love everyone but trust few. She made me instant pistachio pudding. It was green with pieces of nuts in it. She served it in a coffee cup. She said, All of your life will be just like this.


Kathy Fish teaches flash fiction for the Mile High MFA program at Regis University in Denver. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Her story, “A Room with Many Small Beds” was chosen by Stuart Dybek for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2016 (Queen’s Ferry Press). She blogs at www.kathy-fish.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kathyfish.

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