In today’s New Voices, The Masters Review is excited to share a new flash story from the winner of our 2022 Chapbook Open, Lindy Biller! Biller shows off her mastery of the flash form in “Shelly had pencils covered in teethmarks.” A coming-of-age story, “Shelly had pencils covered in teethmarks” explores the narrator’s relationship with her childhood best friend Shelly, whose family’s religiosity appears to restrict Shelly’s real self.
Every day at school, before the final bell, Shelly peeled off her glitter-glue nails, because her mother said that God doesn’t like it when girls pretend to be grown-up. Her mother said beauty begins and ends with modesty, but Shelly said God isn’t like that.
and beige scrunchies and bitten-down nails painted silver with glitter glue, which she peeled off at the end of the school day and collected in a pile on her desk, like snake scales. Shelly was my best friend, and she was shy, like me, so we were also each other’s only friend—but even if I’d had others, I would’ve loved her the most.
Shelly’s father was a mailman and her mother was religious. Her mother believed that God created the earth in six days and then took a nap, and that there was no Santa but there was an actual flesh-and-blood Devil, an angel called Lucifer with red skin and curved horns, and that if you got thrown into the fire you’d only need to sing Amazing Grace and God would make you fireproof, like water. Her father played Santa every year, dressing up with a beard and a fake belly, sitting kids on his lap at the local garden store, and because of his day job he knew a lot of the kids’ names, even some of their addresses, which kept them believing years longer than they would have otherwise.
I already knew her father was Santa and her mother was crazy—we were eleven, kids talked—but I acted impressed because that’s what Shelly wanted, or maybe because her soft, feathery voice made everything sound impressive. Around Christmastime, Shelly brought in a tin can with a slot in its plastic lid, collecting spare change for her church’s toy drive. For neglected children, she said. A lot of the teachers donated, and parents in the drop-off line, and a few boys who wanted a shot with her. And me. Shelly let me hold it while I shoved my quarters through the slot. I shook it and the coins jangled and I felt holier just by touching it.