Unstable Relationship

by Lucy Zhang

Flash Fiction


We’re making papier-mâché birds in art class, ripping strips of newspaper and smearing glue over our fingers. Albatross females lay only one egg, and those whose eggs don’t hatch end up in bird divorce. The more efficient of us have time to make eggs, although it’s too hard to maintain the round shape with crinkled paper, and they end up lopsided and lumpy, like tier-three fruits rejected by Whole Foods and sold at $0.29/lb. at the local farmers’ market, but the surfaces dry smooth and clean and sit nicely by the birds’ legs—stones of separation, we call them as we project the chick’s hypothetical lifeline, its probability of death during every step from embryo to hatchling. The funny thing is female albatrosses in successful breeding pairs are more likely to suffer from global warming than those who failed to breed, which we think is terribly romantic—sacrificing livelihood in the name of love. But our birds will be together for life, their feet glued to cardboard platforms, cardboard platforms fixed to a table, us fixed to our spots adhering layer over layer until the wire legs and masking tape and wadded balls of magazines disappear, our falsified organs, veins, toothpick bones providing an imaginary foundation, because without organs, there’s no need for nutrients, colder waters bringing nitrogen from the deep end of the ocean, kelp seeping it up, females breeding to die or dying to breed and instead riding the breeze with their wings locked and extended, though we haven’t figured out how to get the paper to dry beyond stiffness yet.



Lucy Zhang writes, codes, and watches anime. Her work has appeared in Apple Valley Review, AAWW, SmokeLong Quarterly, Passages North, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbooks HOLLOWED (Thirty West Publishing, 2022) and ABSORPTION (Harbor Review, 2022). Find her at kowaretasekai.wordpress.com or on Twitter at @Dango_Ramen.

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