PHEBE JEWELL: Good Girls Don’t

Flash fiction by Phebe Jewell

Good Girls Don’t

Each night you tell yourself it’s the last time you’ll sleep with Anger. It’s not too late to become a good girl, gliding into wordless sleep, waking empty and calm. Every morning you pull on your good girl skin, tugging the zipper from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head. Remember: Don’t make waves. Don’t ask for more. Take small steps. 

You don’t get far before the chill sets in. A numbing tingle in your toes becomes frost in your throat. You shiver. How long before you freeze solid? Anger will keep you warm. Holding Anger, you are a match struck against the flint separating good girls from the bad. 

Come now, you text him. Anger is at your door in minutes, a bottle in hand. Uncorking the wine, he smiles, tells you he took an Uber so your neighbors wouldn’t see his car in your driveway. Sometimes Anger can be so fucking thoughtful you just want to slap him. 

You drain the glass and pull him to you, biting his lower lip. In seconds you ignite, a spark lighting canyon walls and dry river beds. You wake once again under a sliver of blue sky ripening to a purple black bruise, and shove Anger out of your bed. He tumbles, laughing as you stride out the door naked, sticky, burning with the need to break someone open. 


There is no end to the scrubbing, not even after dark when we can no longer separate the walls from the floors from the tips of our fingers, on our knees in hallways where children lined up for recess, our hands deep in bleach as we crawl into classrooms jumbled with overturned desks, holes the size of our fists in walls and corners, grateful for the mask that doesn’t quite cover the stench of blood and shit and pee, of organs the children might choose to donate when they grow up and get their driver’s license, marking “eyes” or “kidneys” or “lungs” for some unimaginable galaxy when they would be no more, but now they will never reach puberty, never see their own children held by their parents now kneeling in no-man’s land, surrounded by camera lights and microphones, shell-shocked in a nightmare trench no parent ever wants to fall into, mired in “if only he had stayed home,” and “I should have picked her up earlier” as we scrub, here, and then tomorrow in some other town.


Two hours after Danny asks you to marry him, Joni gets down on bended knee, presenting a ring with a flourish. You need time to think it through, so on this August day you find yourself in line at the soft serve counter. Two sunburned kids wiggle in front of you while their mother digs through an enormous purse before pulling out hand sanitizer. You study the options listed on a sandwich board. Danny would love this place — the pastel colors, the kitschy nod to nostalgic happy childhoods. Joni would mutter about the tacky bougie decor, and ask the high school kids behind the counter if this is a union shop. So many flavors and toppings — matcha and Thai tea, pineapple and ube. Granola and coconut flakes and Oreo crumble add-ons. The clerks hand the mother and kids their ice cream — chocolate for the boy, vanilla for the girl, strawberry for the mother. The Neopolitan Family. You order a matcha and ube swirl, not hearing the clerk say, “That’s a new one,” as you plunk down your money, and make room for the customer behind you. Holding up your sugar cone, the green and purple braided in perfect union, you lick first the matcha, then the ube. You nod. Both delicious in their own way, but best when tasted together. You always prefer more than one flavor on your tongue.

Constant Craving

Plenty of men in Seattle are willing to be the father. Our neighbor Jack, a gregarious librarian. My cousin, the drummer. But Nora insists on Derek. “He has beautiful eyes. A good sense of humor. And a nice ass.” Handsome, smart, magnetic, he is an obvious choice. 

Each month we head to Derek’s False Creek condo in the heart of Vancouver. Nora drives, and I watch as suburb after suburb marches over farms and woods, a bag at my feet, issues of Hustler and Playboy resting against a turkey baster. The go-between, I wait by the door each night at Derek’s for a cup of his warm spunk. Part of me hopes he’s firing blanks. Lately when we’re at Derek’s, nothing I do or say is right for Nora. 

Every time the bored customs officer leans into the car to ask the reason for our trip, Nora flushes as she answers “Pleasure.” 

“Business,” I whisper. 

The customs officer couldn’t care less. He nods “Welcome to Canada,” as if this is our first border crossing. 

Phebe Jewell’s work appears in numerous journals, including Pithead Chapel, MoonPark Review, Milk Candy Review, X-R-A-Y, and Monkeybicycle. A teacher at Seattle Central College, she also volunteers for the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a nonprofit providing college courses for incarcerated women, trans-identified and gender non-conforming people in Washington State. Read her at

Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.

Published by poetrybay

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