by Audrey Kuo
It was the sense of exclusion that stung most. More than the blows she knew were coming, she hated looking down at the jeering crowd: rambunctious, greedy, lustful. At first they had treated her with reverence, filling her with treats before hoisting her high above their rapturous faces; now they were taunting her with their shouts, their eagerness to tear her open and plunge their ravenous hands into her and pull out her insides, only to run off again, their faces sticky with her sweetness, her parts strewn about like the discarded candy wrappers. At the end of the night, they would leave her battered on the floor, or pieces of her would remain in the tree, colorful tatters blowing in a slow, weak breeze. So as the boldest of the bunch stepped forward from the group to make the first strike, she shut her eyes, plunged herself into darkness. She felt what the eight-year-old child did, as his face was obscured with a strip of folded cloth; together they were blind, and together they could hear and feel the solid connection between stick and paper flesh.
Audrey Kuo is trying to decide which kind of penniless person surrounded by words to become: journalist, grad student or creative writer. (She once kept her friend Esther from a literary criticism essay in order to discuss pirate symbolism, "latitudinal positions," Aztec sacrifices, and the brevity of the Wikipedia article on pinatas. And she once wrote six other sentences.)