Savannah Slone

Moss of the Indefinite

Ophelia sat in her window seat and peered out into the overgrown forest that was her backyard. It was a late afternoon in December and the snow had all been washed away by an unexpected streak of rain. The downpour let up and all was unnervingly silent. She hadn’t yet bothered to turn on the lights in the house, despite the growing darkness of the outside. The empty cottage was greyer than usual with that late afternoon, gloomy winter glow. 

Outside, western hemlocks were weighed down with moss. Ferns swayed provocatively as a hint of wind wafted through. Ophelia had been gazing out that window for longer than projected. An unintentional meditation. The aperture of her eyes drew into a clearer focus when she noticed a doe about 100 yards away, appearing to be making direct eye contact with her, despite the distance and thick glass between them. She felt her hand rise from her linen pants and touch the chilled window, as she let out an involuntary sigh that fogged the glass. She reached out to the deer, but it continued on its stroll. A single tear paused on Ophelia’s high cheekbone before she wiped it away hostilely. 

She picked herself up and went to the bathroom. Her wad of toilet paper was stained crimson. She wasn’t sure if it were normal to still be bleeding over a week after the procedure. She flushed it away. Put on her knee-length, puffy parka. Brought in firewood from the shed. Built a fire. Drew a bath. Stripped down in dim candlelight. Took a long look at herself. It was the eve of her fifty-second birthday. She was a widowed lesbian who had pathetic drunken sex with a man for the first time since high school and had somehow ended up pregnant with a child she did not want. Before she was certain that she would go through with the abortion, she imagined what her life would look like. Still grieving Ana. Rigid routine—everyday the same, before and after the classes she taught at the nearby arts college. She imagined being mistaken for the child’s grandmother, if she would have even made it to term, that is. She could see herself, seventy-years-old, clapping her arthritic fingers together at her child’s high school graduation. 

She and Ana had always been enough for each other. They never wanted children. Ophelia had the abortion, knowing it was the best decision for her, but hadn’t expected to feel even lonelier than ever before, in the days following. She felt old. 

The warm water rose as she lowered herself into the claw foot tub. Her grey-speckled black hair was clipped atop her head. Her face, chest, and hands were covered in sun damage and liver spots that told stories. She could see her reflection in the handle of the tub. The heat of the bath water and the growing warmth of the fireplace overwhelmed her senses. She got out before even wetting her washcloth, overheated. She wasn’t even in the mood to bring her detachable showerhead in between her legs.

Ophelia lay naked on the cool stone floor of the now even darker bathroom of her cottage in the woods and realized that she had pushed or forcibly removed everyone in her life away. The only one who she wanted was gone. She couldn’t get that Christopher McCandless quote out of her mind—“Happiness only real when shared.”

She stood up, feeling her body breathing and working, as the pounding of her pulse filled her head. She walked through the shadowy house, feeling her way to the door. She opened it, not bothering to close it behind her, and strode outside. She felt the damp soil of the ground on the bottoms of her bare feet. She felt the increasing intensity of the wind lifting goose bumps across her body, hardening her nipples. She felt a trickle of blood slowly swimming down her inner thigh, smearing with each step. She opened her palms in front of her, in the dwindling light of the forest. An inaudible question to the universe that words could not circumscribe. Ophelia didn’t have any answers. She opened her eyes to a sky lit with constellations. Deceased leaves rustled. The doe stood still to Ophelia’s side. They stood in the midst of the mother earth who slowed for no one. Divine feminine energy. They stood not knowing what was or wasn’t or what would happen next.


Savannah Slone is a queer writer who earned her B.A. in English: Professional and Creative Writing from Central Washington University and is completing her M.F.A. in Writing at Lindenwood University. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in or will soon appear in Manastash Literary Arts Magazine, Creative Colloquy, Heavy Feather Review, Boston Accent Lit, PaperFox Lit Mag, The Stray Branch, and The Airgonaut. Savannah lives in Skykomish, WA, where she works a handful of part-time jobs and cares for her toddler with autism. She enjoys reading, writing, knitting, and hiking.


Eliza Gearty


      We were at a party. The music was too quiet and the boys were too loud. A girl began throwing up on the carpet. The way she was curled up reminded me of a cat with a mothball. I heard Henry’s shriek: “Oh my fucking god!” Girl minions clustered round him, staring and sniggering. Then another group of girls swarmed round like a circle of angels, and blocked her from sight.

      Before this happened, a very popular and lengthy song which required a specific dance routine had been put on. I was sitting in the corner on a mattress, watching, waiting for someone to come up and talk to me. What happened was this: each girl raised her left arm in the air, shook it, and then thrust her hip to the side. Then both hips wriggled, allowing the torso to drop suddenly to the ground, like a swing crashing back to earth; the buttocks, alone and suspended in the air, twitched – before the smooth back rose up like a wave of water, and the hair flipped back, and the body was whole and made sense again. All the girls kept shrieking and laughing in an exaggerated way, and looking at the boys. That’s when I realized I was sitting in the wrong place.

      It almost pissed me off. My choice not to participate in the dance was meant to make me look mysterious. But it had gone too far and rendered me completely invisible. Furthermore, I was on my period. My skin was sticky and I could feel the throb between my legs that meant I had to change, but I ignored it. Every so often, a dancing girl zig-zagged up to a boy, let her hair fall all over his face, and then twisted back for the chorus. I felt like everyone was playing a board game I wasn’t aware of. I felt like the song was lasting forever.

      But the vomiting girl disrupted the routine. Through the thread of legs I saw her kneeling on the floor, sacrificing herself. The dancing girls only noticed when they dropped their faces to shake their asses. I didn’t think they’d care much, and my head leant forward with all the boys, ready to watch the more fascinating movement of their disembodied lower halves. But as their lovely bodies unfolded, so did their screams; I suppose some of the vomit had got on their shoes. It started as a surprised gasp inside the lips and flowered into that theatrical bellow that is usually delighted, and always executed for other people’s benefit. The flock parted to reveal the shuddering, sick body at its centre. Until just a moment ago, she herself had been a dancing girl. Now, in the space of a second, she was a leper. The song went on and on. “Come on, fill up the dancefloor,” it taunted, as if to parody the emptiness of ours. The girl’s body heaved. A breast slipped out, and with it, a tragic trail of virgin-white tissue hung like shredded foam from the cup of her bra.

      The breast peeked out through the tissue, and the sick-clodded hair, and the golden mesh material of her shirt. Perhaps she’d bought it that day. The people who get so drunk at parties are always the people who are so excited they go shopping especially that afternoon. The brown circle atop the mound of swollen flesh peered out at us cynically. It seemed to say, “Seen enough yet?” The boys were laughing. They liked watching girls’ asses wrapped up like sweets, but they ridiculed the weirdness of a bare breast, cradled in tissue. The girl looked like she was done. I noticed she was crying, too. But the crying was very silent; globular tears fell noiselessly and drowned in the vomit. Her body convulsed again and a fresh stream hit the carpet. “Oh GOD!” people screamed. Then there was the name we’d all been waiting for. “Courtney!” wailed a girl who’d just come through – “Courtney, why didn’t you go to the toilet?” That was the end: the girls enfolded her.


      When I got home, my mother was sitting on the sofa in nothing but a pair of large beige pants and a vest.

      “Where have you been,” she said, “It’s almost 2 o’clock in the morning.”

      I went to the tap. “Why have you stayed up?”

      As I poured the water my mother’s head turned towards me, and I saw she’d been crying.

      “Don’t you know it worries me?”

      Her voice was hoarse. I sat down next to her on the sofa. I felt bad that she hadn’t been able to sleep.

      “I told you I was going to a party,” I said.

      She didn’t reply; just stared out and bit her lip. Her body was so relaxed on the sofa she almost looked asleep. Only the pair of blinking eyes gave it away. The pants and the legs were such a similar shade she looked naked.

      “I met a boy,” I said.

      “You did?”

      “He was dancing. The only boy dancing.”

      “Girls dance because they have nicer bodies,” said my mother.

      “There must be another reason,” I said.

      My mother wasn’t looking at me; she was gazing at the wall with her head resting on her shoulder.

      “You’re only 16,” she said quite fondly, “you don’t really understand these things yet.”

      “I completely understand it.”

      “No you don’t.” As she said this, her head rolled back towards me; her eyes fixated on the sofa and suddenly her face changed.

      “Jesus,” she said, “get up!”

      Her hand reached out and grabbed my ear, pulling me to my feet. The blood had soaked through my trousers. A pool of it lay on the sofa. My mother was ranting and raving. I knew she’d be like this for a while, so I headed to the bathroom. She followed me.

      “You’ve stained my sofa!” she kept saying. “You’ve stained my sofa!”

      “I know,” I said. “Repeating it won’t change the fact it happened.”

      “Go clear it up now!” she yelled. “You’re sixteen! Old enough to know better! Don’t you know how to keep yourself clean? I thought I told you all about this stuff when you were twelve!”

      I peeled off the faux-leather trousers and began running a shower. It was a real relief to take them off. 

      “Go clear up my sofa!” my mother harped.

      “I don’t care about your sofa,” I told her.

      Unexpectedly, this quietened her down. She said nothing for a moment but continued to hang around in the doorway as I took my clothes off and climbed into the shower. The warmth of it was beautiful. I opened my mouth to capture some drops.

      “Christ,” she said, “Don’t you feel embarrassed? People might have seen.”

      “They were too interested in the vomiting girl.”


      “The vomiting girl.” I turned off the water and reached for a towel. 

      “There was a girl vomiting for ages. On all fours. They’ll talk about her on Monday. No-one will give a shit about period-stains.”

      My mother was standing in the doorway, her arms crossed. Little wisps of black pubic hair escaped from her beige knickers. 

      “I don’t understand you girls now-a-days,” she said. “it’s like you don’t care about humiliating yourselves. You just don’t care about basic things like cleanliness, privacy, being ladies who don’t drink themselves into abandon. Ladies should take extra care to be clean during their time of the month. Let me tell you why: because it’s dirty and it smells. And young ladies should always drink less than men. You don’t care – ”

      The water kept falling and her voice kept raging but there was something calm about it, and I loved her. It was getting light outside. I loved going to bed just when it was getting light. It was like saying goodbye to the world just as it woke up. After this shower, I would go to my room. The blankets would look lovely. Climbing in between them would be the biggest satisfaction of the night. I couldn’t wait for the morning, to wake up, make a peanut-butter sandwich and watch TV. Maybe apologize to my mother. I closed my eyes, and random images started flickering in my head. My mother’s vest, her peach-coloured legs that carried anger in them. Then she transformed into Henry  – Henry’s face, big and sniggering: ‘you! you!’ I was sleepy. The images were like tiny dreams. I saw the vomiting girl’s breast falling out of her shirt. The nipple got larger and larger. Then I saw her face, smiling, smiling through a keyhole, saying: “Sorry about that.”

Eliza Gearty is a young writer who grew up in London and is now living in Glasgow, Scotland. She has been published in Peach Mag.