What Girls Really Think –by Berit Ellingsen

The guest blogger for the month of December is Berit Ellingsen, a writer I’m very fond of and lucky to know.

Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer and science journalist whose work has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies, most recently or forthcoming in Thunderclap, Pure Slush, SmokeLong, Metazen and decomP. Berit’s debut novel, The Empty City, is a story about silence. This is her second story with predatorial fish.

~~~

What Girls Really Think

 by Berit Ellingsen

  

They sat inside the smell of dead seagull, bleach and formaldehyde, beneath the mute stares of a stuffed red fox and a mounted brown and white marten that bared their small teeth ineffectually at the void.

The middle-aged museum taxidermist scrunched up his face, leaned forward and asked in a reverent tone:
            “Do you get a lot of attention from boys?”

The thin, twelve year old girl in front of him tried to duck away from his sour breath. She didn’t know the answer to his question, because it didn’t connect with reality. What did “a lot” mean? What did he mean by “attention”? Compliments? Invitations to dates? Tugs on her hair? She received nothing of the former but plenty of the latter. Her long hair seemed irresistible for pulling, sometimes so hard the roots creaked when the braid was tugged like a church bell by eager little hands.

There was something more to the man’s question than just his words and curiosity, something unformed and threatening, like the shadow of a leviathan passing below the surface. But she wasn’t interested, because the man wasn’t interesting, so she refused to search for it, or be scared of it, whatever it was.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe sometimes.”

The taxidermist leaned back in his chair. He knew he had gone as far as he could risk.

The girl’s mind was cold and clear and still. She sighed and thought of the piranha in the display tank in the museum basement, how much she looked forward to watching them get fed and see the raw meat spread out in cloudy little chunks, blushing the water, instead of trying to reply to unintelligible, unanswerable questions.

No Comments
  • Reply

    Michael Maxwell

    December 2, 2011 at 5:28 am

    How crazy is this? I had just discovered Berit’s writing on Fictionaut earlier this evening and I was in the midst of making a comment when we had a massive power outage that affected 5000 people for 3 hours. Got our power back, I checked my e mail and her Guest Post was in my e mail. Crazy, spooky, weird. Anyway, I like this for many of the same reasons I liked her other story – engaging,mysterious, raw, ominous, dark, electric, pacing, rhythm, tantalizing with rich imagery that appeals to all the senses. Great stuff!

    • Reply

      Berit

      December 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      Hi Michael!

      What a cool coincidence and timing that the story was up when the power got back. :) Was it a solar flare outage?

      Very glad to hear you liked the story!! :) Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! :)

      • Reply

        Michael Maxwell

        December 2, 2011 at 6:04 pm

        I really wondered if it was a solar flare outage but nobody’s offering any explanations. Spooky stuff though. Doesn’t take much to totally change everyone’s life style in a nanosecond! I just bought The Empty City. Something tells me it is the book I need to be reading right now!

      • Reply

        Berit

        December 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm

        Hope you will enjoy The Empty City and that it will feel right right now. :)

        Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

        Solar flares are scary that way. Fascinating phenomenon. :)

  • Reply

    Vanessa Wu

    December 2, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Love it! :)

    • Reply

      Berit

      December 2, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting! :) Hope your writing and blogging is going great.

  • Reply

    Berit

    December 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    It’s a great pleasure and an honor to have a story in your blog, Jules! :)

    So glad we did the story exchange. :)

    Keep on writing and best of luck with your great American zombie novel! :)

  • Reply

    magentoole

    December 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I love the imagery and the visuals in this one: The predatory animals parallel by the taxidermist’s creepy attentions on the girl. And the girl, naive and innocent to all of it, which for me strikes a bit of a cord. Most women live in cultures (myself included) that tell girls outright that being leered at and objectified is part of what it means to be a woman, because men want to/are allowed to own you. That it’s to be expected and embraced, for fear of some nebulous threat out there in the world if you don’t. Her innocence and disinterest is almost heartbreaking in that respect, because that’s a big part of what she has to put up with as an adult: A lot of taxidermists.

    Great work.

    • Reply

      Kath

      December 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm

      “And the girl, naive and innocent to all of it, which for me strikes a bit of a cord.”

      Couldn’t agree more. I definitely try to hold onto that naivete, even in my 20s. But the difference now is that I actually notice the attention and try my best to ignore it, while a decade ago, I was much more oblivious to it. Amazing story. Definitely able to relate.

      • Reply

        Berit

        December 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm

        Glad to hear you could relate. It’s a complex issue which I hope future generations will handle better than the previous ones.

        Thank you very much for reading and commenting, Kath.

    • Reply

      Berit

      December 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      Thank you very much for the insightful and accurate reading and comment, Magen!

      Isn’t it strange how we are supposed to rate our self worth as objects for others? I don’t get it!

  • Reply

    What Girls Really Think in Jules Just Write « Berit Ellingsen – Fiction Writer

    December 4, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    […] What Girls Really Think […]

  • Reply

    Andy (@DecodingStatic)

    December 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I like this, simple yet powerful. I love the first paragraph, powerful scene setting.

    • Reply

      Berit

      December 6, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      Very glad to hear you like it, Andy! :)

      As you probably guessed, I have a fascination with these kind of settings.

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting. :)

  • Reply

    chris

    December 15, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    So glad this girl was still young enough to be cushioned by her naiveté as she sits amongst the poor stuffed creatures with a predatory taxidermist.
    Rich and evocative setting description, intense psychological character development.

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