Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle series in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Jennifer Fliss writes about her debut story collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, out now from Okay Donkey Press.
If The Predatory Animal Ball were a circus act, it would be a flying trapeze act: calluses broken open to reveal bloody palms, glittery iridescent leotards, the smell of roasted peanuts in the air, and the vague sense of probable death – but it would be beautiful and everyone would clap.
If The Predatory Animal Ball were an infomercial, you would receive a free set of steak knives. The shipping and handling would not be $19.95. And the knives would last long enough to be passed on to your children and your grandchildren.
If The Predatory Animal Ball were a musical instrument, it would be a clarinet, the hollow uncertain sounds of echoes, the winds sweeping across the Pale of Settlement.
If The Predatory Animal Ball were a menu item at your favorite chain restaurant. It would be wrapped in a wonton wrapper with hot sauce and something sweet. Maybe dates. Maybe figs. It would be called a popper of sorts. They’d be a best seller. People would attempt copycat recipes online, but none of them would get it exactly right.
If The Predatory Animal Ball were a grocery list, there would be items not on the list. But you wouldn’t know it until you got home. And maybe not even then.
If The Predatory Animal Ball were a McMansion, it would be 4000 square feet with double sinks and granite countertops, six bedrooms and a bonus room, but there would only be one bathroom. There would be a reality TV show following the family that lived there. It would fail before the first season ended, the family would go bankrupt, pack their things and leave the house. The McMansion would sit empty, abandoned for years, weeds would pop up from under the Berber carpet, honeybees would nestle into its walls, and young graffiti artists would break in and paint murals of their dreams.
If The Predatory Animal Ball were a poltergeist, a phantom, it would be the memory of hope.
If The Predatory Animal Ball were an amusement park ride, you’d pull the bar down and think you were secure. The carts would tick, tick, tick forward and then lurch before entering the mouth of a great beast, but you’d be going too fast to know exactly what kind of animal and anyway, it’s all the same once you’re in the gullet and swimming in the gruesome muck of devoured things.
But it’s not. The Predatory Animal Ball is none of those. It’s a ball. And you can decide if it’s a ball like you’re having a blast, a ball like the kind you get all gussied up for and play pretend, or a ball like the kind you hold in your hand, spin it, bounce it, or throw it as hard as you can leaving only a broken window in its absence. The warm spring breeze will spiral through your rooms and leave you momentarily winded.
Jennifer Fliss (she/her) is a Seattle-based writer with over 200 stories and essays that have appeared in F®iction, PANK, Hobart, The Rumpus, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. She was a Pen Parentis Fellow and recipient of a Grant for Artist Project award from Artist’s Trust. She has been nominated four times for The Pushcart Prize and her story “Hineni” was selected for inclusion in the Best Small Fictions 2019 anthology. She is an alumna of the Tin House Summer and Winter Writers’ Workshops and can be found on Twitter at @writesforlife or via her website, www.jenniferflisscreative.com.