Cover Photo: An illustration of a white woman holding the crossbar of a Jeep as she rides through the desert. She is wearing sunglasses and a fuchsia headscarf and her face is turned away from the viewer. Driving the Jeep is a Black man in army fatigues.
Illustration by Sirin Thada for Catapult

The Abaarso School for Clever Girls

Melinda’s violation of their agreement—to stay the same for each other, forever—was so profound that she split their shared sphere in two.

Everything Melinda designed planned for the worst-case scenario. No two aircraft performed the same, but they all used the four fundamental maneuvers: straight-and-level flight, turns, climbs, and descents. She was used to thinking in vectors and oscillations, trim and stabilization. She knew how to assess any terrain for structural threats that might twist a plane’s sensitive controls out of alignment or skew the antitorque system and send the pilot cartwheeling through space. But helipads were different from human beings. On the weekend, she pushed a mechanical mower across her moon-shaped yard, stopping only to look up at the vacant sky, as if Erik might be hovering there, set to reenter her life and resume things as they were before Melinda informed him she was ready to live as a woman.

space

Look at Erik SeniorForty years of marriage and Dagmar is going to put him in the ground.

us

ma’am

In the washroom, she changed into a full-length linen skirt and tied a scarf over her hair. She swiped a cleansing pad around her eyes. Twenty-eight hours of travel had made her face look drawn, her pores coarsened by fatigue. She put on her sunglasses at the sink as a woman guided her two daughters, in matching pink sundresses and with vivid barrettes in their hair, to the soap dispenser. Melinda felt, rather than witnessed, the mother assessing her height; strangers’ eyes felt different than the glances of people who loved and knew her. She twitched her bangs into place and grabbed the handle of her luggage, deliberately turning away from the woman to make herself harder to examine.

am

was

I was worth it

Abaarsoapproach

Missusmissus

right

Abaarso School for Science & Technology

our

Stop asking impossible questions

“You don’t understand. These girls don’t have anyone,” he said. He twisted in his chair, then stood up. She was afraid for a moment that he would spring on her; they used to grapple sometimes instead of talking things out. He was older now but just as fit as the day he abandoned her, one hand easily lifting a milk crate of LPs that he couldn’t bear to leave behind. In comparison, she had softened, lost her mosh pit–hardened muscles, and entered the land of femininity. She gave up confrontation when Erik left; revisiting him and this old conflict felt like a return to the past. Abaarso was a dry place, its climate a preservative. Erik brought their past with him and let it sit, collecting sand, in suspended animation. In the desert, she was not the person she was in Seattle, or even with Dagmar. She belonged to him again; their history unsettled and consoled them both.

I’m not angry anymore

To the Lighthouse

Claire Rudy Foster is a queer, nonbinary trans writer from Portland, Oregon. Their critically acclaimed short story collection Shine of the Ever is available from Interlude Press.