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Introducing our new fiction editors

We’re pleased to formally announce our four newest staff members: Holly Lopez, Meredith Maltby, Marina Petrova, and William VanDenBerg! They’ve already begun reading submissions and have proven themselves valuable members of The Conium Review team.

Holly Lopez is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. Her work has appeared in Plots With Guns, Charlotte Viewpoint, and Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up To No Good. She is also the recipient of the 2012 Marjorie Blankenship Melton Award in Fiction. As an editor, she appreciates when writers subvert expectations and produce stories that are fresh and unconventional. She’s most interested in strange stories that also have dimension, red-blooded characters, and effectively tap into the human condition. Some of her favorite authors include George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, and Karen Russell.

Meredith Maltby is the poetry editor for the Tulane Review and was a featured poet at Design Cloud Chicago’s HERE / NOW event. Meredith has previously published her work in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Chicago Tribune, ROAR: a literary journal for women of the arts, and Gravel Journal, among others. She appreciates interesting and strange writing from underrepresented voices. She admires and is influenced by Amelia Gray’s Gutshot, Lincoln Michel’s Upright Beasts, Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Bonnie Campell’s Mothers Tell Your Daughters, and anything by Ariana Reines or Melissa Broder.

Marina Petrova was published in The Conium Review: Vol. 4, and when we posted our call for editors, she was eager to get more involved with our small press. She graduated from the MFA program at The New School in May 2014, where she had previously served as a reader for LIT. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Underwater New York, and Calliope Anthology. She’s currently working on a collection of short stories. In her non-writing life, she also works as a Business Analyst for a Media Tech company. Marina is a native Russian speaker, and growing up she was influenced by Chekhov, Nabokov, and Bulgakov. More recently, she’s become a huge fan of Donald Barthelme, Italo Calvino, Ben Marcus, Junot Díaz, and George Saunders.

William VanDenBerg is a first year MFA student at Brown University. He is the author of two chapbooks: Lake of Earth from Caketrain Press and Apostle Islands from Solar Luxuriance—he’ll be signing copies of these chapbooks at our AWP Conference table in Los Angeles (table #1238). He loves the work of Donald Barthelme, Ann Quin, Lindsay Hunter, Amelia Gray, and Steven Millhauser.

Visit masthead page to learn more about these editors and the rest of our staff.

“The Hen of God,” by Ashley Hutson

Egg Sketch (BW)

Sister Catherine began holding an egg in her mouth during Mass to feel closer to God. Her tongue smoothed over its cool roundness before the Lord’s Prayer; she pressed it against the roof of her mouth during benediction. After two weeks of this, in a fit of faith and daring, she began using her teeth to maneuver it in and out of her cheek.

At the end of the third week, she felt the Holy Trinity enter her. A back molar, cracked in childhood and jagged as a pysanky needle, slit open the egg’s hard shell on a Sunday morning. God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit oozed down her throat, warmed by the heat of her mouth.

When she returned to the abbey after the service, she plucked the pierced shell from between her lips and placed it under her bed. At lunchtime, she walked through the kitchen and picked up another egg, concealing it in the folds of her sleeve.

After entering the nearest restroom and locking the door, she pulled up her underskirts, pulled out a tampon, and slipped the fresh egg inside her. All the nuns bled together, but her blood would mingle with Christ’s. The thought filled her with a swoony kind of love, the kind of love she felt when swallowed wafers became the fingers of God. She dreamed the egg would be subsumed by her body, traveling inward, upward, until it reached the heart.

At evening Mass, she sat carefully. There was talk of Jesus sucking a sponge of vinegar, of bleeding, dying, resurrecting. When it came time to genuflect, she bowed on one knee.

Sister Catherine heard the muffled crack before her body felt it. As she knelt by the pew, she felt the egg crumble inside her, releasing its thick, yellow yolk in a slow, searing gush.

She did not move. She wept. This was God’s rebuke, she was sure. There was no way she could keep him carefully enough: her body would not hold him.

She prayed with shut eyes, but God did not answer. He only touched her blood and slid out, wetting her thighs, staining her tunic, leaving her empty.

About the Author:

Ashley Hutson lives in rural Western Maryland. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, DOGZPLOT, theEEEL, and elsewhere. Find her on the web at www.aahutson.com.

Special Notes:

This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2015 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Laura Ellen Joyce.

This story was selected by Ross McMeekin for the Ploughshares feature “Best Short Story I Read in a Lit Mag This Week.”

Image Credit: © VIGE.co/ Dollar Photo Club