Mother is cleaning the spoons again. From where I sit in the kitchen, I can see the reflection of her trippy-looking head: bulbous skull, stretched down mouth, eyes that scoop away at the rest of her face. A droop-faced woman. Jeeeez. Just look at her. She’s rubbing the holy crap out of those spoons. Poor, silvery utensils.

That’s what it felt like to be her kid, too.

I can see the inside out of this city out our lame kitchen window. Everything gray going to blue to black. Seattle streets running for all they are worth. Puny pedestrians. Sheets of rain. I can see the Space Needle. Possibly the dumbest thing ever. Rain life makes the scene out the high-rise condo seem like you are in a dream. I put my hand on the window and watch fog surround my fingers. I take my hand away. There I am. A trace. See-through girl. In a pink terry robe and two-day-old underwear. I want a cigarette.

Mother. I sigh. She will rub the spoons until she wipes herself clean.

I rub my eyes. My face feels smeared.

You know what? Seventeen is no place to be. You want to get out, you want to shake off a self like old dead skin. You want to take how things are and chuck it like a rock. You pierce your face or you tattoo your skin – anything to feel something beyond the numb of home. You invent clothes other people think are garbage. You get high. You meddle with sexuality. You stuff your ears with ear buds blasting music so loud it’s beyond hearing, it’s just the throb and heat and slam and pound and scream of bodies on the edge of adult. You text your head off. You guerilla film. We live through sound and light – through our technologies. With our parents’ zombie life dope arsenal at our fingertips.

I’m not a criminal.

I’m just a daughter. I’m not sick.





I walk into the living room. This room always reminds me of Mr. K. It even smells a little like him. When he first came on to me, Mr. K., the friend of my father’s, he had a butterknife in his hand. Who knows why a butterknife. He just did. Just me and him in the living room. Just rain whispering like nuns against the pressure of the walls and windows. He had this butterknife in his hand, and he crossed the carpet to me. He trembled. He put his hand on my hip, then he put his other hand near my collarbone. I had a Pixies T-shirt on with safety pins decorating the neckline. He leaned in and sort of suck nibbled my neck and he whimpered. He smelled like Old Spice and Altoids.

It was so retro. Like something out of a Lon Chaney movie. It should have been in black and white with dramatic and creepy music in the background. I’d have YouTubed it. What the fuck did he think he was doing? I pulled out my pocketknife. I flipped open the blade. He took a step back, thinking it might be for him, I guess. I held the little blade in the air between us. I menaced him. It cracked me up. Then I drew the blade to my own collarbone above the safety pins and Pixies to the very place he had trembled and whimpered. I held his gaze in mine. Without even looking, I made a little smile on my skin. I could hear him swallow.

I was fourteen.

After that I lost my voice. I knew where my voice was. But I wasn’t saying. Though it happened years ago, I can still disappear my voice when I need to.

Somehow my father’s gotten it into his head I need a shrink. It’s all so perfectly Oedipal. Subconsciously he knows I’m onto him and Mrs. K. Who the fuck wouldn’t be? They’re about as discreet as retards at Nordstrom’s. He knows Mr. K.’s got his tent pitched for me, so I must be sick. Send the daughter to a shrink.Wash your hands. Straighten your father tie.

My name is Ida. Or used to be.


LIDIA YUKNAVITCH is the author of three works of short fiction: Her Other Mouths, Liberty’s Excess, and Real to Reel, as well as a book of literary criticism, Allegories of Violence. Her work has appeared in Ms., The Iowa Review, Exquisite Corpse, Another Chicago Magazine, Fiction International, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. Her book Real to Reel was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and she is the recipient of awards and fellowships from Poets and Writers and Literary Arts, Inc. Her work appears in the anthologies Life As We Show It (City Lights), Forms At War (FC2), Wreckage of Reason (Spuytin Duyvil). She teaches writing, literature, film, and Women’s Studies in Oregon. Her first novel is forthcoming from Hawthorne Books.

Adapted from Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch. Copyright © 2012 by Lidia Yuknavitch. With the permission of the publisher, Hawthorne Books.

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

TNB FICTION is proud to showcase book excerpts and original short fiction from some of the finest writers in the world. Features have included work by Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Egan, Bret Easton Ellis, Roxane Gay, Etgar Keret, Antonya Nelson, and hundreds of other internationally acclaimed and emerging writers. Spotlighting a recent book release each week, TNB Fiction helps bring awareness of new literary fiction, from both trade and independent publishers, to readers around the world, providing a global, free-access arena for spotlighting the genre in an era of shrinking coverage among mainstream print publications. TNB Fiction has its finger on the pulse of a vibrant new generation of writers, as well as established literary greats whose work continues to shape the future dialogue of literary culture. Fiction Editor Rachael Warecki lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, The Masters Review, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere, and has received residency invitations from the Wellstone Center and Ragdale. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles and is currently at work on a novel.

One response to “Excerpt from Dora: A Headcase, by Lidia Yuknavitch”

  1. Rikki says:

    This is fantastic! I’m ordering it right now. I love reading from the voice of a young adult lamenting her early teenage years. I feel her pain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *