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Two Stories by Lily Dodge

Jonah is still inside the whale. He never got to Nineveh. It’s not so bad inside the whale. Jonah set up a card table underneath the whale’s ribcage where he plays poker with the little fishes. He stuck pictures of pin-up girls to the insides of the whale. The whale didn’t mind. They don’t talk much.
     Jonah sleeps on the spongy inner belly of the whale. He looks at the pin-up girls. Their skin is a lighter pink than the inside of the whale. Their hair is dry. Jonah hasn’t been dry since the day he left home. Saltwater sits on his lips and in his lungs all the time now.
     Jonah pretends he can hear the waves from so far below the surface. He pretends he is breathing dry air. On nights when the waves are too loud and the air too dry to sleep, he remembers the night they threw him overboard. The water was so cold that it smacked him, hard. As soon as his head sank under the waves the storm went silent.
     Jonah had never been underwater before. In the stillness, he felt his hair floating up over his head. The darkness roared heavy in his ears. Cold stung along the edges of his body. Then the whale swallowed him, and it was warm inside the whale. That first night, Jonah curled up at the back of the whale’s tongue and went to sleep. He dreamed about a pin-up girl named Nineveh wearing a polka-dotted bathing suit. Hers was the first photo he tacked up.
     In the spring, Jonah listens to the whale’s songs and thinks he used to know the words. He beats the little fishes at poker. He whispers stories to Nineveh about how she’s going to die. The little fishes nibble the polka dots off her bathing suit. Jonah loses the nine of diamonds so they play checkers instead. The little fishes win.
     On its way to warmer waters, the whale swims under Noah’s ark. Above the whale and its stowaway, the old man is still sitting there on his wooden ship, watching the sea. There is no white dove coming.
When Eve arrived, Adam was curled on the ground, blood trickling from a hole in his side. It pooled under him, sticky and sweet like nectar, and stained Eve’s feet when she stepped over his body.
     In her hair she wore a tiny snake, smaller than her smallest finger and green as a new leaf budding. It sang her to sleep with songs that told the names of the stars. On warm nights the stars would fall with a soft noise and land in the dust. Eve suspected the snake of calling them down. She threw them over the walls of the garden, careful and quick so they didn’t burn her hands. The snake whispered, hold them, keep them, wear them in your eyes, carry them in your belly, but they burned too hot to hold onto.
     Adam wept when the stars fell. Frightened, he hid under the branches of the great tree while Eve caught them. The ones that fell to the ground traced their names in the dust as they landed, leaving soot-black mandalas behind them. In the morning Adam dragged his toes through the burnt lines, kicking up inky clouds.
     On the nights when the stars were quiet Eve slept under the great tree. In the mornings the snake cried out the name of each color in the sunrise and Eve woke without remembering them. Adam said red, yellow, pink, orange, but Eve and the snake knew better. Adam thought each creature in the garden had only one name, short and full of consonants. Under a stone he found a soft grey thing he called rat. The snake taught Eve the thing’s other names, names that ran like water, names that felt like fur on her tongue, before swallowing it whole.
     Golden fruits grew on the tree, on the branches too high for Eve to reach. The snake shook them down and they landed at Eve’s feet, rolling in the dirt like Adam on that first day. Their skins were hard and bitter and warm to the touch. Inside each fruit there were thousands of seeds and a baby snake, thin as a hair, curled up tight.
Lily Dodge is an Arizona native currently teaching English in Tucson. She has made two cross-country road trips and still doesn’t understand the traffic laws in Texas. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Urbanite, wigleaf, Crack the Spine, and Marco Polo. Find her online at www.lilydodge.com.