Today, we are pleased to present the winner of our Fall Fiction Contest judged by Brian Evenson: “If I Could Have Anything, I’d Only Choose This” by Jill Rosenberg. Evenson had this to say about the story: “The trouble with reality is that it’s all too prone to slip and slide and collapse, and when it does it takes us down with it. What happens when you’re a girl with not only a real sister but also an ‘alternate’ one, and not only an alternate sister but an alternate self? You need to hide this from your real sister, who doesn’t understand, who doesn’t see how important it is, but you need to keep talking to your alternate sister so you can become your alternate self.” Dive in.
“First I feel a bullet racing around my body that is filled with the happy, buzzing feeling of being Hop, and then that feeling spreads everywhere and my feet turn into Hop’s cute, pink, little feet and then up through my legs and torso and then my whole body is my alternate, perfect and tiny body of Hop.”
This is how it works: When I am with Helen, I can have Hopscotch and Butterscotch with me too, but I cannot acknowledge them when Helen is there. Helen is my real sister, and Butterscotch is my alternate sister. Hopscotch is the alternate me.
When I say that I don’t acknowledge Hop and Butter, what I mean is that I don’t acknowledge them in any way that Helen could notice. For example, if I am sitting on the couch watching TV with Helen, Butter can sit on the floor with her back against my legs, and if I want to talk to Butter, I don’t have to actually talk—I just hold my fist to my mouth and that’s our microphone and because Butter is my alternate sister, she can hear me. When Butter talks, I put my fist to my ear, but I make it look like I’m just rubbing my face with my fist because it itches or like I’m holding my fist to my face because I’m being thoughtful.
When Butter is down by my feet I don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen next because Butter wraps her arms around my legs and I hold my fist to my ear and she says, “You’re okay—I’m here. You’re Hop. You don’t have to worry.”
When she says that, I turn into Hop. First I feel a bullet racing around my body that is filled with the happy, buzzing feeling of being Hop, and then that feeling spreads everywhere and my feet turn into Hop’s cute, pink, little feet and then up through my legs and torso and then my whole body is my alternate, perfect and tiny body of Hop.
When Helen is focused on her TV show, I keep Hop at my side on the couch so I can remind myself that she’s there, with her very skinny legs against my actual legs, like I can choose to have her legs instead of my legs whenever I want.
When Hop’s body is against my body and Helen is there in the room, the sensation is both magical and real: the best me is attached to the actual me and I am both of us at once.
I should explain that sometimes I am Hopscotch, and sometimes I watch Hopscotch. It took me a while to realize that this was the case. I like it best when I am Hopscotch, but sometimes I have to enjoy her from the outside in order to make it even better once I am inside Hop.
Sometimes the barriers between the two aren’t as clear as I’m making them sound. Sometimes I’m inside and outside at the same time.
I never imagine that I am Butterscotch. Sometimes I let myself imagine what it would be like to be Helen, to get to live in her body and to know what her thoughts are like, but I want none of this from Butter. I just want Butter to exist, and I want her right by me, like a human pillow or a blanket that I can hug or curl up under. If I ever imagine that I’m inside Butter, it’s more like I’m wrapped up inside her, but I’m still me, or I’m Hop, or both, and then we’re protected because Butter blocks us from everything and hides us. I really don’t want to know what that’s like for Butter. Just the idea of it makes me feel guilty and nervous and ruins the whole point of Butter.