Year One, First Friday of July
I can’t tell if dad blames me for losing his grandchild
Dad buys an entire sheet of pig stomach when I come home empty-handed. He teaches me how to get rid of the stench, like a sock has gone rotten in my closet once full of damp fabrics rinsed of menstrual blood. First, you blanch the sack in boiling water. Next, you wash it once, twice, until your fingers prune. Then you scoop spoons of flour and knead it through the crevasses and oddities, flesh bending and curling where you don’t think it should: smooth yet disruptive, fingers poking through unexpected holes, hitting unexpected clots—I wonder how the pig kept food in, but maybe this is just how pigs are built. Dad says if you’ve got money, you can use corn starch, but all-purpose flour serves the same function: removes the gaminess, cleanses the impurities, bleaches a cavern once home to gastric acid. He lets it sit for half an hour before rinsing the stomach again and setting it in the pressure cooker. As we wait, he asks if I’ve remembered the steps, if he needs to write them down, if I need a YouTube link even though I speak fluent search engine: how Zhihu warns of insufficient progesterone, how Quora stands by the one-tenth dose of aspirin to thin blood and speed the transfer of nutrients. Seasoning is left: a splash of Zao Lu, peppercorn, cumin. Dad slices the stomach into thin pieces, smaller than a pinky finger, limper than pulled noodles. I didn’t always like the taste. It’s about the rubber consistency: this exterior muscular wall stripped of fat, withstanding my jaw before I finally crush it to pieces. Dad complains this pig must’ve been sick: its stomach containing blockages in place of openings, the anatomy botched. But it tastes all the same now, chopped up, broken down. Dad doesn’t like to waste food. I try to eat. Maybe I am less sick, relatively speaking.
Lucy Zhang is the author of the chapbook HOLLOWED, available with Thirty West Publishing, and her micro chapbook ABSORPTION is now out with Harbor Review. Her work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, DIAGRAM, New Orleans Review, The Offing, Passages North, The Rumpus, West Branch and elsewhere. Her work is anthologized in Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, was a finalist in Best of the Net and was long listed in the Wigleaf Top 50. She edits for Heavy Feather Review, Pithead Chapel, Barren Magazine and Vestal Review.