The third place finalist for our 2020 Flash Fiction Contest, “Heirlooms” by Amanda Jean Akers will take root in your memory. “I love the unrealistic/realistic nature of this story,” writes guest judge Sherrie Flick. “The rooting is a little gross, but also reassuring as our narrator stands solidly in the train station at the end. The whole atmosphere is one of wet, organic decay—but from that there’s regrowth. A weird, wonderful story.”
Third-date-lipstick stains have been replaced by taproots. Fibers branch across the roof of her hard plate, embedding into her swollen tonsils.
She squeezes a tomato into an empty mason jar and thinks of her dentist.
“You’re missing roots,” he told her.
The pulp is left to stew with gnats in her kitchen window. On the third day, she looks closely at the white mold that has grown around the chipped glass, the dried-up juices. Light, sneaking through dusty blinds and water spots, she turns the jar toward the full sun. All the good seeds had sunk to the bottom. She digs. Spoonfuls of mush are flung into the food processor. Spoil smears her knuckles, barely red.
With salt, the waste is ground into just enough paste she can brush her teeth. The grit leaves behind a deep-clean-feeling. Fungi froth in her spit. Traces of seeds bury into her gums, wedging between her molars. She refuses to floss. They blend in with her plaque.