“I’m your slave, she’d say, I’m nothing, I’m nothing, I’m nothing”
Hermine is a new journal of short fiction, published in Toronto. The first story, ‘The Pit’, is so good, reading it feels a little claustrophobic, like being trapped inside someone else’s skin. By Lituo Huang, it’s a brilliantly physical account of doomed obsession. Take this passage, about a fantasy the protagonist has about her love object in the middle of orchestra practice:
“… Honoria imagined dropping to the floor and clasping Preethi’s slim calves: I’m your slave, she’d say, I’m nothing, I’m nothing, I’m nothing, while looking up into Preethi’s filmy eyes, past the pointed tip of Preethi’s nose and the curved sides that curled like scrolls against her cheeks, while breathing in the coconut of Preethi’s hair that left damp marks on the back of her shirts.”
There are six stories in this debut issue, and reading them, you notice that certain themes recur: childhood, sexual infatuation, and bodily awkwardness. In ‘The Animal Heart’, by Alison Stine, a teenager secretly puts a dead bird in her mother’s freezer; at the end of the story she offers it, silently, to her highschool teacher, with whom she is having an affair. In ‘The Digging Woman’, by Chris Kuriata, which is printed immediately afterwards, there is another bird:
“‘Oh Abby, those are all crows,” Mother warns. ‘You dirty things stay in the trees! If one of them takes off you better duck. They’ll swoop down and pluck out your eyes.’”
There is a drawing of a snake coiled up in a bunch of flowers on Hermine’s cover, which seems like a perfect illustration of the power of these stories. Lurking within each of these outwardly quiet, normal protagonists there is an impulse to violence. Every story has a sting in its tail.