Kitchen Dancing

by Ani King

2nd Place Winner – Flash 405, April 2024: “Home”


My mom says if you like boys never let them see you cook, once they see you cook it’s all downhill from there and before you know it BAM you’re his mother now. She shimmies as she punctuates the sizzling chunks of beef, onion, and garlic with her own blend of rosemary, thyme, oregano, and more, the scent of stew gathering around her, then filling the house. She sways from fridge to counter to sink and back again, peeling potatoes, chopping carrots, measuring out water for broth. While she cooks, my stepdad hums in agreement at the table, folding laundry, which looks like its own dance: arms up and out, towel snapped in half, shaken into place, folded into thirds, then onto the next, the smell of lavender fabric softener overpowered by the food. Mom says and if you like boys definitely never let them see you clean or BAM you’re a housekeeper now too. Mom says don’t get me started on what happens if you like a boy and don’t take precautions because BAM then you’re really fucked and PopPop sighs because she’s talking about my bio dad but I want to ask specifically which precautions she means this time: birth control or condoms or practical running shoes or a fist full of house keys, but instead I say what about PopPop, he cooks and cleans way more than you do and Mom says hey! but she laughs and says PopPop’s different, since he’s trans and was raised as a Midwestern girl first, he knows how to do everything except say no without feeling bad about it. PopPop says I mean, you’re not entirely wrong, but that’s still super sexist, not to mention I know how to say no to you about plenty, love. Mom says sure, want me to help you fold those towels or not and PopPop laughs and says no, absolutely not. Mom says kiddo come stand over here and stir this for a bit and I am embraced by the minty smell of her homemade deodorant mingled with spices as she twirls away and sits at the table to help PopPop finish up the towels, even though he says no don’t you always fold them wrong! I partner with the wooden spoon, sway in my own swishing rhythm and ask, but what if I like girls? Mom says it’s really not so different with girls, sweetheart and we keep dancing.



Judge’s Comments:
I love this exploration of home as something almost cobbled together, assembled from past wreckage, in progress as much as we are. And oh, how beautiful it is to be with this family in this tiny, transitional moment that’s filled with so much love.

Ani King (they/them) is a queer, gender noncompliant writer, artist, and activist from Michigan. Ani is the first-place winner of the 2024 Blue Frog annual flash fiction contest and a SmokeLong Grand Micro Competition 2023 finalist, and has had work featured in Split Lip Magazine. They can be found at, or trying to find somewhere to quietly finish a book without any more interruptions.

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Photo by Vitor Monthay