“Paper Fan” by Dinah Cox

Not the object, but the idea for an object, blueprints for an oscillating fan made from the magic of a 3-D printer. “It’s my idea,” she says at the board meeting. “Don’t steal it.”

I don’t go to board meetings, but my roommate does. She’s too young for board meetings, but she doesn’t care. Her name is Angelique. Everyone calls her Angel, and I have some idea why. They call me Turkey Lurkey, but my name is Lauren.

Angelique thinks I need to become more involved in the community. I think she needs to go jump in a lake. One thing she’s heavily involved in is community advocacy. She advocates for members of the community. One of the ways she does this is to turn her uncle’s lake house into a community center, a safe space, the sign says, for members of the LGBTQ community. Angelique herself has a steady boyfriend who lives in another state. They video chat.

“What are you wearing?” Angelique says into her laptop. They’re sharing a long-distant candlelight dinner—Subway sandwiches—at their respective desks.

“Can’t you see what I’m wearing?” her boyfriend replies from the screen.

“No, I mean, what pants are you wearing?”

“Oh,” he says. “Jeans.”

His name is Brett, and he acts like someone named Brett. He wears a lot of jeans.

Angelique and Brett are getting married as soon as he finishes his internship in another state. I’d tell you which state, but it’s too boring. I’d tell you what kind of internship, but you can probably guess: a really important internship. As our evil president might say, a very big deal.

But back to the oscillating fan made from the magic of a 3-D printer. These ideas are in development. Angelique is working on a prototype. She invented this notion, she says, because we live in Oklahoma, and Oklahoma is very hot. This is life-saving technology, she says. True innovation.

Angelique has invited me to her uncle’s lake house in order to stage an intervention. The lake house is very hot. In the corner, Angelique has positioned an oscillating fan, not one made from the magic of a 3-D printer, but one from Walmart, made in China by people Angelique believes in need of therapy.

“We’re intervening,” Angelique says from her uncle’s leather sofa. “Brett and I think you need help.”

“Brett isn’t even here,” I say. “He lives in another state.”

“He lives in a state of awareness,” she says. “Hyper awareness.”

“Sure,” I say. “Let’s watch TV.”

“He’s also inside my laptop,” she says. “Waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”

“Your intervention,” she says. “This is your second birthday.”

“It’s my actual birthday,” I say, because it is, not that Angelique—and certainly not Brett—would know.

“Happy Birthday,” she says. “Brett and I think you’re gay.”

“Brett thinks ‘salmon’ is one of the books of the New Testament.”

“Brett doesn’t eat fish.”

The lake house is suddenly very stuffy. I imagine what Angelique must look like at one of her board meetings, a yellow pencil in her hair made to look messy on purpose. Outside, twilight wraps around the lake. A beautiful purple light streams in from the windows. I hear nothing save the sound of the oscillating fan.

“You’re the one who’s gay,” I say. “And Brett’s so super-gay he eats brunch instead of breakfast or dinner.”

“Brett likes waffles,” she says. “That’s all.”

“I’m gay enough,” I say. “Gay enough to tell you to go jump in your uncle’s lake.”

“The lake belongs to The People,” she says. “It’s in a public trust.”

“Go jump in the public lake,” I say. “Go jump in the gay public lake. I’ll babysit your oscillating fan.”

“You need to face your identity, Lauren,” she says. “This isn’t funny.”

What she doesn’t know is that Brett really is gay, or bisexual or mostly straight or mostly gay or maybe just really obnoxious. She doesn’t know I’ve seen him kiss another man. Not live, but in a YouTube video, and because the other man is on my cousin’s basketball team in another state, I know they were lovers in the official sense, for a while. But I don’t tell Angelique any of this. She’s too angelic to handle it.

“Yeah so I’m gay,” I say. “You’ve successfully intervened.”

“I want you to feel safe here,” she says. “Really. No one will call you Turkey Lurkey if I can help it.”

“Thanks,” I say. “That means a lot.”

And I’m not lying—not really. Her efforts at outreach—at reaching out—do mean something, if not exactly a lot. Angelique is the kind of person who needs projects, and I see now I’m one of them. A Science Project: How to Transform Turkey Lurkey Lauren from a Boring Gay Person Who Never Goes Out into a Fun Gay Person Who Makes Mixed Drinks and Sparkled Sweaters for Rescue Animals. And I don’t mind, not really. I consider the merits of becoming a new person, a better person, a person who does not make fun of other people’s innovative ideas. I look down at her uncle’s coffee table and see a stack of magazines and some unopened mail. On top is a flyer for a local ice cream shop. Angelique turns on the TV, a home decorating show featuring decorators of ambiguous sexuality.

“Turn up the volume,” I say. “I can’t hear.”

When she obeys, I take the ice cream shop flyer from the stack of mail. I fold it, accordion-style, into a paper fan. I fan myself because this is Oklahoma, and I am very hot. I am also very funny, a funny gay person from Oklahoma. Coquettish, I hold the fan so that it covers most of my face. “Look at me now,” I say to Angelique. “Ready for the Pride Parade.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” she says. “You’re not even on the Steering Committee.”

“Steering Committee for what?”


Maybe she does know Brett once had a male lover. Maybe the two of them are on the Pride Steering Committee, together. Before I can ask, she grabs the paper fan from my hand and rips it to pieces. “We’re allies now,” she says. “You can trust me.”

“How about Brett?” I say. “Can I trust him?”

“Brett may be a distant relative of Jared Kushner’s,” she says. “But don’t let that fool you.”

“I won’t,” I say. “You can count on me.”

And I mean it, too, because I like Angelique, not because she likes me in return, because she most certainly does not. I like her because she once saved an elderly dog from a burning building and never talks about it. Really. Her mom told me about it. On video chat. “Let’s order a pizza,” I say. “You think they’ll deliver all the way out here?”

“I’m just sure they will,” she says. She’s loosening up now, grabbing a throw pillow from the sofa and hurling it into my lap. “We’re having fun now, Lauren. Aren’t we having fun?”

“Speak for yourself,” I say. “This gay person,” I say, pointing to my own chest, “doesn’t know how to have fun.”

“You’re so funny, Lauren,” she says. “I shouldn’t have ripped up your paper fan.”

“If only we had a 3-D printer,” I say.

“Yes,” she says. “If only we did.”

Dinah Cox’s first book of stories, Remarkable, appeared as winner of BOA’s Fourth Annual Short Fiction Prize. A second collection, The Canary Keeper appeared from PANK Books. Her individual stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including recent and forthcoming appearances in The Florida Review, Arts & Letters, and The Jabberwock Review. She serves as an associate editor at Cimarron Review at Oklahoma State University.

At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year-round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

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