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Master Plotto Week Three Winner: Molly Anders
Misplaced messages abound this week as Plottoists took on yet another plot from William Wallace Cook. With tales of cursed fortune cookies, international assassins, and cats falling from the sky, we were impressed with the various ways one could lose a note. Extra bonus respect for no one blaming a dog.
Congratulations go out to Molly Anders, whose story about permanent ink reminded us of Justin Taylor’s The World Made Flesh, as well as an encounter we had with a Zak Smith fan at the LA Times Festival of Books this past weekend.
Last Week’s Prompt: A receives half of an important message, X, and is looking for a stranger who has the other half.
I lost the receipt for the tattoo but I make the twenty-minute trek to the tattoo parlor anyway, sure the artist will remember my face or at least the now-scorched flesh above my ribcage.
“Sure, the pine tree,” he says, “you’re not supposed to take off the bandage until tomorrow.”
“I couldn’t help it,” I say, “my first time.”
The tattoo artist, Jodi, doesn’t look up. He owns a small business in a fringe industry; his refund-carapace has slid into place.
I stand silent among the sound of color stitching flesh.
“Well the swelling’s gone down, but there’s a little red welt at the center of the tree,” I say, showing him my rib, “I’m worried there’s an infection.”
“Not an infection,” he says, “an apple.”
“A what?” I turn to examine myself in the full-length mirror. A red welt, round and glazed with puss, a hint of green at the top, now clearly a stem with leaf.
“Oh,” I say, “an apple.”
“Un pomme,” says Jodi, watching me now in the mirror.
“Looks good,” I smile at him, my most grandiose smile. His face is an equation of small indifferences, eyes cast-straight, mouth tight.
“But pine trees don’t have apples,” I say softly, inquisitively, so he might feel free to dispute. “I mean, not normally. Apples don’t grow on pine trees normally.”
“I know that,” he says, “don’t you think I know that?”
It’s rough-going with Jodi. He eventually explains that someone gave him $100 while I was in the waiting room, said she was a friend, said I’d get the message.
“Jodi,” I say, kneeling so my face is level with his, “but I don’t get the message.”
Jodi gives me a slip of paper with a scribbled address. The building is around the corner, an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant. I climb the stairs and knock on the door.
Of course, it’s her. She laughs, her white teeth like the ruins of a tiny city. She lifts her shirt to show her rib cage and there, wandering the neat rows, is a red welt encompassing a smiling green worm.
Molly Anders is an MFA candidate in fiction at Syracuse University, and a Fulbright Fellow in Media Rights in the Middle East. She has published in JO Magazine, Venture Magazine and Newsweek International.