Anja in the Upper Room

by Lizzie Duszynski

The day that Anja is to foolishly take the back alley, a shortcut, and find a foreign arm around her waist, a rough palm gripping her face, she takes great care to dress herself, as if she's privy to the approaching hour. Tediously, she bends over the squat ironing board, wiping the mouse brown hair from her sweating forehead, twirling it from the nape of her neck and securing it atop her head, as the iron sputters and hisses over the cotton dress, the sun-faded curtains hang heavy at the open window. In a minute or two, after she's slipped into the feathery blue dress and made a mental note that yes, she did unplug the steaming iron; she'll be at the sink, the sweating tumbler of gin balanced precariously between all ten of her finger pads. She's in a rush now, nothing new, all of that pressing and steaming and curling, and she's got to take the edge of her dress in her fists and pick up the pace until she's jogging — the iron gates guarding overgrown lawns leading to deteriorating houses, these all lurch in her vision with each step she takes, her heart anxious and light. Anja will hear her mother's worried tenor in her head as she turns toward the alley, one orange streetlight casting a halo over the pavement. The cicadas are out this year, their sirens inescapable, their dead empty shells caught in a moment of action, of climbing—just as this shadowed fist snatches the rippling hem of her skirt, pulls her in, down, bloodies her knees and palms.


Lizzie Duszynski is a writer living, sleeping, and dreaming in Chicago. She is sure that once Anja realizes what has been done to her, once again, she will be very displeased and despondent. She's a good sport and Ms. Duszynski is forever grateful.