about the author

Kristen Shaw lives in Toronto where she studies philosophy and literature. In addition to flash fiction, Kristen writes poetry and is a poetry editor for the Canadian arts and literature journal Existere. Previous publications, poetry and personal ramblings can be found on her blog, escapingvoices.blogspot.com.

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Innocence and Panic

Kristen Shaw

When we woke up the canoe was gone.

That night before we scampered up the slippery rock shore, paddles locked under goose bump arms, cold skin still damp under sturdy clothing. The fabric of your shirt clung to your bicep from lake water or sweat. I felt my stomach drop the way it does when I become aroused, neurons firing signals to obscure regions: “become wet.” Distracted, I dropped my paddle, horny at the sight of your bare forearms. I slipped a little on the rock and you swore when the canoe fell against the shore. The hollow sound reverberated.

In the canoe an hour prior you hastily tore off my sweater to fondle my breasts and take each nipple in your mouth. My body was locked into yours when the canoe tipped and you made a sound like a child half afraid half joyful and under the black water I opened my eyes and felt the water sounds pound in my ears. The body’s fear of blindness caused a surge of panic and your hand was between my legs, one finger inside of me briefly penetrating this exchange. You were always indifferent to natural forces compelling separation, entropy, meiosis.

Later, we locked ourselves up in an apartment for one week, treating the experience like an assignment or mission, writing meal plans and renting movies in advance as if in preparation for the apocalypse. All excitement and anxiety arises in anticipation. We wanted to do as Leonard Cohen did; when the game failed we didn’t know whether to blame him or ourselves. On the last night, you fell asleep early and I stayed up, massaged your left forearm absent-mindedly and listened to the neighbors fuck: murky underwater moans like synchronized exhalations.

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