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by Tina S. Zhu

The day the women collectively lost their heads again, you could see them in the streets holding their heads up on their necks and cradling them in their arms while swaddled in scarves and towels, old heads with thin hair and young heads with braids dangling to the ground like knockoff Rapunzels, but my head hadn’t come lose, so I spent all day in class poking at my neck wondering where the other girls went until my mother picked me up from school, her head on the shotgun seat in a wicker basket she bought forty percent off on sale, and when we stopped at McDonald’s she wrote on a notepad asking me to hold it for her keep it safe so she could go to the restroom while her head lolled on my lap, mouth slightly open as if she wanted to ask me a question, eyes that followed me around as I wriggled into the shotgun seat I wasn’t supposed to be sitting in yet because I was only twelve, but twelve was the same thing as thirteen anyway even though I was the only girl in my middle school to still have her head, so I covered my mother’s eyes with Hello Kitty sunglasses to keep her from watching me playing games on my phone and with my other hand I forced her mouth to close and turn up into a smile like the one she’d normally have when her head was on her shoulders, but when I removed my finger from her mouth there was lipstick the color of dried blood that wouldn’t wipe off my jeans, and then my mother returned and she kept driving on and on and on without saying anything until I fell asleep, dreaming of when I would finally lose my head too, how I would someday tell my daughter the same thing my mother told me, to watch subtitled video tutorials on how to replace a head on a body so that it wouldn’t fall off so loudly the next time so that she could someday convince coworkers and managers and doctors and boyfriends and husbands and in-laws that she was one of the good ones, the ones with their heads on right, not prone to bursts of anger or surprise or happiness or anything, really, because you should keep that to yourself and suture your head to your neck after work with store brand tooth floss after each time you lose your head, and my future daughter’s shaking fingers will grip the needle, stitching me back up while she talks about how her head will always stay on and how this will never ever happen to her and I won’t be able to respond, but if I had a mouth again, I would tell her to stay quiet and pay attention and keep her head on right and hold onto my head and hold onto her own head too.

Tina S. Zhu writes from New York. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y, The Journal, Sundog Lit, and other places. She can be found at

Lead image: “a statue of a woman with a bird on her shoulder” (Photo by Danny Greenberg on Unsplash)