He absolutely killed me: ravished

Their mother loved idioms, coaxed life back into the dead slang of generations past; cool beans, groovy daddy-o, and douche bag all had a place at the table, the breakfast table where she often discussed termite tracks along with her nightly rendezvous. Killed me always meant something wonderful, but ravished was the sisters’ favorite. Ravished. 

—Ravished, they whispered into their cereal bowls. The milk moved under their breath.

Though still alive then, their mother was scrubbed bare like an antique candlestick restored in the morning and tarnished by midnight, a candlestick wearing a pink terry cloth robe with knots of gray lint from her daughters’ hoodies.

Some mothers are too big for cemeteries, their presence cascading out and up like history, like algae. The sisters put her in the grave and never looked back—not because their mother didn’t deserve it, but because they could find her elsewhere. Mother, sister, daughter, miser, hooker, soccer coach, thief, apartment dweller, dog hater, agoraphobe, cuckold, savior, and friend would have cost too much by the letter on a tombstone. They celebrated her birthday no matter what: rock climbing in Utah, moose hunting in Alaska, and online double dating, which was not too unlike shooting the moose, which they didn’t. It was the buying of gear, the preparation, the ritual and the distance, that mattered most. But they ran out of ritual and youth and money and eventually turned to tequila in random parking lots. This year, a favorite was the 24-hour laundromat; the hypnotic hum of the calmed them.

—I wanted it badly, one told the other.


—To be ravished. 

The other spit out her booze in a soft dribble. 

—Me too, even though it seemed like a horrible thing.

—It is a horrible thing.

—And not.

—It’s when a bunch of kittens claw at in the air all around your body.

—You thought that?

—Of course.

—No, it’s when you fall down together in leaves and roll around and splash until it feels like drowning.

—It’s when a boy does karate kicks around your head but always misses.

—It’s football.

—It’s when you run together on a beach riding horses. 

—White horses. 


—No, it’s when you can’t see because he’s got his hands over your eye and there is a surprise waiting.

—It’s when you have to go to the doctor and the doctor takes blood and the blood goes in the tube and he looks you right in the face and smiles and you want to throw up.

—It’s when you throw up on your doctor.

—On your boyfriend.

—Who is a doctor.

—It’s when you agree to be somewhere at the same time, but he doesn’t show up so you drink brandy in a cocktail dress on the porch till mosquitoes make you go back inside. 

They stopped. 

They considered how far they had not gone still, the lives they were supposed to be living on behalf of the dead. They considered the laundry and the moose, un-killed, still frolicking, roaming, and living that good moose life. 


Venita Blackburn’s stories have appeared in American Short Fiction, Pleiades, Bat City Review, Nashville Review, and others. Her hometown is Compton, California; she currently lives and teaches in Arizona, where she is finishing her story collection “Black Jesus and Other Superheroes” along with a novel, “Guts.” She earned her MFA from Arizona State University in 2008.