STUTTERING by Cinthia Ritchie You know about silence, not the silence of shaded fields but of nights where the wind forgets to move and the flat, salted weight of your own stupid tongue. You don't speak unless you have to, your throat a stingy lump that refuses to give up words. The heat of your broken speech is so great you often escape to the bathroom, press your face against cool tiles, imagining rain or snow or the cold, clear blast of a freezer door opening. At a dinner party, you rub butter over your lips, press your elbows against the polished table, smile at the man with the fraying cuffs and long, dark fingers until his body falls in step with yours and you lead him home, your hands sliding beneath his shirt, each touch a vowel, a syllable, a long, teasing hyphen. There's so much you want to say you can't keep your tongue away from his skin: even your saliva drips words across his chest. This man talks a lot, whispering and asking, thanking and demanding, the moist hum of letters slipping so effortlessly from his lips that you can't help biting down, hard, on his neck, your throat washed with the warm, slippery taste of his fluent blood. When he finally leaves you dance the cat across the room until your teeth ache. You haven't spoken a word all night and your voice presses your throat like newly-splintered wood. You open your mouth: yell, scream, shout, your words breaking and snapping with the useless urgency of damp ash.
Cinthia Ritchie writes and runs mountains in Anchorage, Alaska. Find her work at Sport Literate, Best American Sports Writing 2013, Evening Street Review, Water-Stone Review, Under the Sun, Cactus Heart Press, Daminfo Press, The Boiler Journal, 101 Words and other literary magazines and small presses. Her first novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, was released from Hachette Book Group.