Dominica Phetteplace

Dominica Phetteplace is a writer and math tutor. Her work has appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Zyzzyva. Her work has been reprinted in The Pushcart Prize XLI, and her honors include a Rona Jaffe Award and fellowships from I-Park and the MacDowell Colony.

The Cool Girl’s Guide to Contortion

In memory of Jonathan Bernbaum (1982–2016), who lost his life in the Ghost Ship Fire


I didn’t have much of an audience. Guests were few and far between, chatting nervously with one another. As if to compensate, the DJ blared the music. He was playing the Black Eyed Peas. He may have been mocking the guests. He may have been mocking me.

I was in a lyra suspended five feet off a raised platform. Front mermaid to splits. I took out the back catch in order to simplify the routine. I’d heard this tech firm was a zombie now, but they had gone ahead with the holiday party anyhow. My fee had been negotiated by my agent: five hundred dollars, yet to be collected, and shares. I had the feeling I wouldn’t get the former and wouldn’t want the latter.

I hung upside down, dismounting into a handstand, down into the splits. I raised my hands in the air and received exactly no applause. I stood up and ran backstage. This was already the second of five scheduled miniroutines. What would happen if I just left now?

At least my dressing room, tiny as it was, was an actual dressing room. It was dingy in an authentic way—on most nights this was a rock club. The venue was old; it predated several booms. There were band stickers covering a graffittied mirror. zambri. battles. fuck buddies. All people cooler than I was.