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Dead Shark

By Lesley Jenike

We’re at Panera for the mac and cheese and as usual my daughter has to pee twice so twice we notice a flyer pinned to a corkboard near the bathrooms that reads, “Bible study on Mondays!” and the sign on the back of the stall door that warns, “Please don’t flush feminine products!” and my daughter says she has “two questions” for me and I can guess what they are and you probably can too, though what you may not have guessed is that this is just another essay about the “Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” and I both do and don’t mean the artist Damien Hirst’s dead shark installation since I’m of two minds when it comes to the big questions and the first is to answer them whole-heartedly there and then at the moment they’re posed, and the other is to ignore them and hope they go away, but my second mind always wins

and sure, I could be quick and literal—the Bible’s a book and feminine products are napkins that’ll clog a toilet—but quick and literal isn’t my forte since I’m a lugubrious sort, a long-form dirge of a person, and while it’s funny that most people who know me think I’m upbeat, my daughter’s got my number, always has, and the way she looks at me sometimes fills me with shame because I wear my love like a costume and at night I crawl out of it and into bed, exhausted by the play I’m in called motherhood and no, they shouldn’t have cast me, but here I am, and my daughter’s the critic in the audience with a notepad and a light-pen.

Lesley Jenike's essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, West Branch, The Bennington Review, The Rumpus, Image, and many other journals as well as on Ploughshares' blog.

Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado living in Oregon, by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.


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