Robin Romm


After cutting off my tongue, my father placed it inside of a small canning jar on the top shelf of his closet. It drifts listlessly in the alcohol, pickling and pining for words.

It is lonesome up there, drifting like a stiffened tadpole, and tugs deftly at the strings of my heart. He has not visited it in some time, and the tongue grows easily bored.

"Oh!" it thinks, "the world has been stolen from me!" If it could it would loose a howl or a wail.

In other homes, tongues are behaving the way God intended. Tasting the saltiness of soup, dampening themselves before a meal, curving around the edges of letters. In other, darker houses, tongues are dragged like heavy sacks over the hills and hollows of someone's collarbone. From there, they follow the southern trails of tongues before them.

But my father stole my tongue, and so it does none of these things.

At first, though, he did try to teach it tricks.

"CURL!" he'd holler at it through the glass. "CURL!" His face as purple as a plum, his fists balled like a child.

The tongue, being obstinate and unforgiving (being my tongue) would not obey. It wished it could say all sorts of things-it would have tossed a litany of insults at his feet. "I'm not your slave," it would have yelled. "You brute, you maniac! You can't have my pride!"

After his one sided showdowns with my tongue, my father would take a tongue depressor and prod at it. He'd pin it down to the bottom of the jar until it was obviously beaten. "DO AS I SAY!" he commanded, his voice growing whiney with impatience. But what could he do? Already he had taken it from its warm cave, exposed it to a stinging bath, hidden it away. The tongue had nothing left in the world that it loved, and without something to withhold from it, my father became rather powerless.

If I could whisper to it without sounding smeared and beastly, I would tell it that greatness is always achieved by those who have nothing left to lose.

"Look at me," I would tell it, "all day long I have to sit on my fingers and keep track of my ears. What a life."

After a brief stint as a Federal Investigator, Robin Romm now attends San Francisco State University where she's pursuing an MFA. You can find other stories of hers in The Threepenny Review, The Nebraska Review, Carriage House Review, and Fourteen Hills.