“Heirlooms” by Amanda Jean Akers

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.

In the subway bathroom, she prunes. Before her first train, one of her incisors had fallen out when she sneezed into her coat sleeve. Bad lighting, dirt ages the public mirror. Tinted drool, dripping from the dimple in her chin resembles a Bloody Mary. She tilts her head and opens her mouth wide enough to taste the odor of wet clay and underground coming from the drain.

Third-date-lipstick stains have been replaced by taproots. Fibers branch across the roof of her hard plate, embedding into her swollen tonsils. What she thought was an infection, she now guesses are vines, climbing into her sinus cavity. She relaxes, tweezing her eyebrows and snipping side stems with fingernail clippers. Oversized glasses and bangs help to hide the green spreading around her eye sockets.

After a couple of weeks, tiny, yellow flowers bud in the bone gap. Standing on the station platform, she sticks her tongue into the hole between her teeth. Petal skin presses against her palate. Plant whisper, chalky chunks of Tums are stuck in the back of her throat. She bought every bottle over the counter. The antacid prevents blossom rot.

Hands at her side, she stands with her feet close together, planted to the ground. Goosebumps, new growth tunnels through her. Sprouts splinter her toenails. Her shoes are cramped. Taking off her heels, she curls her toes and settles them into the leftover mud in the cracks of the station tile.  The train arrives. She stares into the sliding-glass doors. Tomato cheeks, the dusky, dark pink brings out her grandmother’s rosacea.

An Antioch College graduate, Amanda  Jean Akers’ short story, “Star Eater”, was  published in the 2017 edition of Flights Literary Journal and the 2016-2017 League for Innovation in the Community College National Student Literary Competition Anthology. More recently, her flash fiction  ‘Heirlooms’  has been recognized as a finalist by The Masters Review for their 2020 Flash Fiction Contest.
After having given flavor to heartburn and stardust, Amanda has gone from the Midwest to Seoul, and is doing pretty okay, so far. Outside of the classroom, life in Korea is basically her, completing people’s sentences with South Park quotes that would make her sister laugh.



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