And She Kept Walking

— Chelsea Sutton

Her smile was falling off all day, but she didn’t seem to notice, and everyone else was too embarrassed to say anything.  At first, it just looked a bit off-kilter, a little crooked like a crayon drawing or a cloud or a one-way street.  But then it got worse.  It moved up to her cheek for a while, remaining there while she mailed some bills at the post office.  Then it slipped down to her chin, where it dangled and jiggled as she shopped for bread, milk, and instant Jell-O at the supermarket.  From there, the smile slid down her neck and under her blouse, reemerging once again on her left bicep.  It looked a bit like a tattoo in that position, and people who saw her during this time, and didn’t know any better, thought of her as a real bad ass.  But still, nobody said a word.  Her hair was pulled up tightly into a bun so everyone who was looking could see the smile when it moved again to the back of her neck.  And there it began to grow.  It grew and grew and grew like a wart or a cyst or a tomato plant or a ten-year old child.  And then it fell off.  It fell off as she was walking down the sidewalk toward her home in the middle of a housing tract.  It fell off and she kept walking.  It made a terrible shattering sound, like a dropped mirror or a jet plane or gunfire.  She didn’t hear it, but her neighbors did.  They stopped mowing their lawns and trimming their hedges and drinking their lemonade and smoking their cigarettes in order to look at the smile’s scattered shards on the ground.

 


 

Chelsea Sutton is a fiction writer, playwright, and a 2016 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her fiction has appeared in The Rattling Wall, Spectrum, Bourbon Penn, The Texas Observer, and others. She was the winner of NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Contest and a Finalist for the Indiana Review Short Fiction Prize. Her plays have been finalists for the O’Neill Playwrights, PlayPenn, and Seven Devils Conferences, the Ingram New Works Lab, and the Stanley Drama, Woodward/Newman Drama, and Reva Shiner Comedy awards. She was nominated for a Stage Raw Award for her play Wood Boy Dog Fish, an adaptation of The Adventures of Pinocchio written for Rogue Artists Ensemble. She is currently working on a short story collection entitled Curious Monsters and developing new plays with Skylight Theatre’s Playlab and Humanitas PlayLA. She is a graduate of the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara.