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Introducing the Vol. 5 authors

The Conium Review: Vol. 5 comes out later this year. We’ve finalized the table of contents, and we’re pleased to introduce the authors and stories slated for this issue:

  • “Birth,” by Jessica Roeder
  • “Copy Machine,” by Samantha Duncan
  • “The Solitude of Fruit,” by Liz Kellebrew
  • “Ruby Goes In,” by Kate Gies
  • “Gazebo,” by Shane Jones
  • “The Mother,” by Kathryn Hill (winner of the 2016 Innovative Short Fiction Contest)
  • “United Parcel Service,” by Emily Koon
  • “Tiny Little Goat,” by Jasmine Sawers
  • “Once Upon a Time in an Orchard,” by Jasmine Sawers
  • “Rain Cloud,” by Ingrid Jendrzejewski
  • “Her Blood,” by Maryse Meijer


Jessica Roeder lives in Duluth, Minnesota, where she teaches writing and dance. Her work has appeared in Threepenny Review, Third Coast, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She has received a Pushcart Prize and a McKnight Artist Fellowship.

Samantha Duncan‘s latest poetry chapbook is The Birth Creatures (Agape Editions, 2016), and her fiction has appeared in Meridian, The Pinch, and Flapperhouse. She serves as Executive Editor for ELJ Publications and reads for Gigantic Sequins, and she lives in Houston.

Liz Kellebrew holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She lives in Seattle and writes fiction, poetry, literary essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in The Coachella Review, Elohi Gadugi, Mount Island, Vine Leaves, Section 8, The Pitkin Review, and Beyond Parallax.

Kate Gies lives in Toronto, where she writes and teaches creative non-fiction at George Brown College. Her work has most recently appeared in Word Riot and Ascent Aspirations Magazine.

Shane Jones is the author of the novels Light Boxes (Penguin, 2010), Daniel Fights a Hurricane (Penguin, 2012), and Crystal Eaters (Two Dollar Radio, 2014). Fiction and non-fiction has been published by VICE, The Paris Review Daily, Washington Square Review, LIT, The Portland Review, The Believer Logger, Quarterly West, and DIAGRAM. He lives in upstate New York.

Kathryn Hill is an MFA candidate in fiction at Arizona State University where she also reads prose for Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming at AGNI Online, Gigantic Sequins, Monkeybicycle, Passages North, and elsewhere. She has creative nonfiction forthcoming in an anthology from Outpost19. Follow her on Twitter at @kathelizhill

Emily Koon is a fiction writer from North Carolina. She has work in Potomac Review, The RumpusPortland Review and other places. She can be found at twitter.com/thebookdress.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Jasmine Sawers now lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky.

Ingrid Jendrzejewski likes cryptic crosswords, the game of go and the python programming language, among other things. Links to her work can be found at www.ingridj.com and she occasionally tweets from @LunchOnTuesday. Recently, she was awarded the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize for Flash Fiction and the Bath Flash Fiction Award.

Maryse Meijer‘s work has appears in or at Joyland, Meridian, The Dallas Review, The Portland Review, St. Ann’s Review, 580 Split, and elsewhere. Her collection of stories, Heartbreaker, was published by FSG as part of their Paperback Originals series.

“Fish Head,” by Jinny Koh

Fish Sketch

The girl was born with a fish head. At first, the mother cursed herself for prodding too many fish at the market. This is my karma, she thought. Secretly, the father blamed himself for a previous affair. I must have caught some stupid disease, he suspected. Whatever the reason, the girl with the fish head was born and there was nothing they could do about it.

Despite the girl’s fishy origins, her parents loved her. They decorated her nursery with pictures of sea animals and anemone, brought her to the aquarium to show her that she was not alone, abstained from eating fish (although the father drove out once a week for a plate of crispy cod and chips on the sly), and even served her worms for dinner. Thankfully, the girl’s refined palate rejected them in favor of mac and cheese, burgers and fries.

In school, teachers often asked the girl what type of fish she was. Some tugged at her whiskers and claimed that she was Catfish. Others squinted at her grayish complexion and insisted she was Artic Char. The girl could not answer them because she had no idea. Poring over dozens of encyclopedias, she found no fish that resembled her. “It doesn’t matter what you are,” the mother said after discovering the girl in her bedroom, books strewn everywhere. The girl’s gill covers flapped furiously, exposing the pinkish flare underneath. That was the only way to decipher emotions on her otherwise expressionless face. She did not have tear ducts and could not cry. The mother cupped the girl’s throbbing cheeks and said, “You are not a label. You are our little fish and we love you.”

Growing up, the girl realized she was not that different from her girlfriends who also wrestled with issues like body odor. On cool days the girl carried a sweet, salty scent of the sea. But under the sweltering sun, she doused herself with copious amounts of deodorant to mask her perspiration, a stench akin to rotten flesh.

She also had her own share of boy troubles. Friendly and beautiful, getting the first date was a breeze. The problem was always with the kiss. Some complained about her slimy lips when she got excited. Others said her tongue was too short. One boy left without a word after cutting his mouth with her scales. She concluded that love was not meant to be. I’ll be a nun, she thought miserably, a nun with a fish head.

One day, the girl found out that a swimming competition was going to be held at the beach in two weeks. Now, despite her fish head, the girl was not a good swimmer. Her hands and legs were clumsy in water, as if they could not catch up with her head that moved and breathed effortlessly. Friends often mocked at that irony. Here’s the chance to prove my worth, she thought, her gill covers flapping in excitement.

The girl practiced her moves at the public pool every afternoon to the point where she believed she could win.

The big day arrived. The girl wore her favorite bathing suit with bright yellow seashells and went to the beach with her parents. The judges took one look and disqualified her. She has an obvious advantage, they said, unanimously shaking their heads. “Please,” the girl begged, “I practiced really hard for this.” After much persuasion, the judges relented. But no tricks, they warned.

The girl quickly took her place in line on the shore. The goal was to swim to the lighthouse and back. “On your marks,” the judge said, “get set… go!” The girl swam as fast as she could, hands and legs in a flurry. But something was wrong. A school of fish was following her. “Go away,” she garbled, slapping their heads and tails. But the fish were relentless, forming a crowd around her. Soon, more fish joined them. By then, her competitors were far ahead. “Please, leave me alone,” she said. It was no use. There were hundreds of fish. They dragged her down into the sea, refusing to let her go.

Night came. The competition had ended hours before but no one had left the beach. They were looking for the girl with the fish head. The police scanned the waters until the sun rose. Turning off their torches, they sighed and said, “We think she might have drowned.”

“Impossible,” her parents cried out, “she has a fish head, for goodness sake!”

Days dragged to weeks. The mother stopped going to the market for fear of recognizing one of the fish heads for sale. Others might not be able to tell one fish from another but she would. She knew her child’s face like her own – those lopsided whiskers, blue-green eyes, gill covers where three beauty marks rested on each side. When the mother slept, the girl’s head kept swimming in her mind, and salty tears would drench her pillow beneath.

The father no longer went to the pier for his regular fish and chips. He had no appetite for any food, much less fish, and his heart squeezed whenever he received flyers from sushi joints.

Years slipped by and slowly, the mother and father moved on. It wasn’t that they no longer pined for their daughter. Instead, they have accepted grief like an old friend who would accompany them to the grocery store, join them at the dinner table, and share their sheets in the quiet of the night. They try to comfort themselves with the idea that their daughter had found new life in the waters. “Perhaps she is now a sea princess!” they said. Even so, hand in hand they would venture to the beach in the evenings and, standing on the dusty yellow sand, call out for their daughter to come home.

About the Author:

Jinny Koh, born and raised in Singapore, now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. She was the Fiction Editor at The Southern California Review while pursuing her Master’s Degree at the University of Southern California. Her essay can be found on Role Reboot and she was a finalist for Potomac Review’s flash fiction contest.

Image Credit: © Tony Baggett / Dollar Photo Club