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by Michelle Ross

Over dinner, I say, “Where do you think fire forms in a dragon? Its belly? Its lungs? Its mouth?”

You say, “I’ve had a rough day,” and fork carrots and potatoes into your mouth.

I say, “It’s an intimate thing to talk to a person face-to-face, your noses uncovered. You breathe each other in. Not just perfume or deodorant, or the coffee you’ve been drinking, but shed skin cells.”

I say, “I wish we spent more time together.”

You say, “I’m exhausted.”

I say, “I read that if you want to breed frogs in captivity, you should play them audio of a thunderstorm.”

You say, “I think I might be getting sick.”

I say, “Seriously, this dragon question: What do you think the combustion reaction is that enables a dragon to breathe fire? What elements or compounds do you think are involved?”

You say, “I can’t deal with getting sick right now.”

I say, “I feel like you don’t listen to me.”

You say, “Hydrogen and oxygen can be explosive.”

I say, “And oxygen feeds a fire. Seal a lit candle from oxygen by covering it with glass, and the flame burns out.”

You say, “My hearing’s bad.”

I say, “Then get a hearing aid.”

You say, “Let’s just say I don’t listen to you.”

I say, “Dust is residue of bodies — human bodies, dust mite bodies, the decayed matter of still other bodies. Then there are the dust mites themselves, the living feeding off the dead.”

You say, “I’m spending time with you right now. Are you going to finish that chicken?”

I say, “Maybe the dichotomy of living and nonliving misses the point. What is living today was once nonliving and will be nonliving again. What is nonliving was likely once living and will be living again.”

You say, “I hope you’re not going to become a vegetarian again.”

I say, “You never ask me how my day was.”

You say, “One doesn’t want to risk harm.”

I say, “I bet exhaling fire is a torment.”

You say, “You can say that again.”

I say, “I get tired of repeating myself.”

Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (2017), which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. Her fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Monkeybicycle, Okay Donkey, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and other venues. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review. She lives in Tucson, Arizona. michellenross.com