Oakland, California, writer Ruth Crossman (“The Shoes”) returns to The Fabulist with a new exploration the dilemma of living in a body that doesn’t always share society’s expectations for it.

Her tongue hasn’t always been this way. She’s pretty sure it was round and pink and human-like when she was born. It’s taken a steady diet of coffee and swear words to get her to this point, but now it’s unavoidable.

The fork began with one word said in a fit of anger: something acid and venomous that made him recoil. She saw the look in his eyes — something between anger and fear, and when she opened her mouth again to apologize only hissing came out.

She tries to compensate for it, keeping her mouth shut tight and lady-like, but she can’t pull it off. It’s starting to change the way she says words. Now everything comes out sibilant — even when she’s just ordering coffee or trying to make small talk with the cashier at the corner store.

Her throat is beginning to close up and throb. When she feels something bitter welling up like milk she realizes the venom gland is kicking in.

She worries about the effect it will have on him — is it safe to kiss open-mouthed? She’s sure the fangs can’t be far behind now, but he just looks sad.

It’s okay. Her eyes are closed and he strokes the new scales on her hands. It’s okay, really.

Ruth is a community educator and Pushcart-nominated author. Her work has appeared in publications including sPARKLE&bLINK, MaximumRocknRoll and Litro. Her first chapbook, All the Wrong Places, is forthcoming from Naked Bulb Press. She was born and raised in Berkeley and currently lives in Oakland, California. You can find out more information about her on her website,

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