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"The Very Bad People at a Sad Little School" by Candice M. Kelsey

There once was a husband and wife who had lived in a big city out West. They were a happy couple who enjoyed teaching high school students. He was great with the at-risk kids and her classroom was known as the safest space on campus for thespians. Then one day they were no longer welcome at their school. The husband and wife were so confused they stood in front of the bathroom mirror for hours every night trying to see what had caused them to be rejected by their colleagues. One night the husband noticed his reflection included the antlers of a deer, and his wife noticed she appeared to have a second head. Was this why their contracts were not renewed?

When they moved to a small town in the Southeast, their friends swore they did not know why they had moved away nor where they had gone. Some of their former colleagues soon grew antlers and second heads but were rewarded with new titles and nice raises. Their pictures were added to the school’s website.

On the morning of their first day at the new school, the husband and wife stood in front of their bathroom mirror. The wife noticed the husband’s antlers had doubled. He was able to hold his head up because his spine had split at the base of his neck giving him two heads like his wife. The wife’s eyes were rectangular, protruding from the sides of her skull. Her skin was a velveteen pelt. She had a tail white on the underside and brown on top. They were uncomfortable in these bodies only for a short time.

After a few months at their new school, the wife learned it was deer hunting season. Many of her students would share pictures and stories about the deer they shot and field dressed and even ate. The husband assured her they were safe, but the wife felt more uncomfortable each day. She noticed herself becoming too weak to teach. Her colleagues began ignoring her at the copy machine in the morning. No one made room for her at the faculty lunch table. She spent all her free periods with her students in order to prove she still existed. Her two heads and strange eyes were the most interesting part of their day. The husband would sometimes visit her classroom at lunch and let the students decorate the sixteen points on his head.

After a year at their new school, the wife became invisible. The husband spent his days looking for her. He started at their school but the administration and the faculty had never heard of her even though she taught classes and attended department meetings for a year. The students had forgotten who she was. Even the parents of her students had denied knowing her.

Some months after his wife’s disappearance, the neighbors looked in on the husband to see how he was doing. While they stood talking in the front yard, a school bus full of all the teachers and administrators from the school drove by. They threw his wife’s books and classroom decorations onto his lawn. He gathered the books and drove them back to the school where he threw them onto the football field to remind them that his wife had once existed. Within minutes tiny bushes grew out of his wife’s books creating a lush garden across the yard lines. Convinced this was a sign, the man dug up all the bushes and discovered his wife’s body in the ground. She had been skinned. The teachers and administrators swore they had no memory of killing his wife.

CANDICE KELSEY [she/her] is a poet, educator, and activist in Georgia. She serves as a creative writing mentor with PEN America's Prison Writing Program; her work appears in West Trestle, Heimat Review, Poet Lore, and Worcester Review among other journals. Recently, Candice was a Best of the Net finalist and was nominated for a Best Microfiction 2023. She is the author of Still I am Pushing (FLP '20), A Poet (ABP '22), a forthcoming full-length collection (Pine Row Press), and two forthcoming chapbooks (Drunk Monkeys' Cherry Dress and Fauxmoir Lit).

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