We shared DNA on a vegetable pork roll in the Metropolitan museum café. I washed it down with two Prelief. He inquired what was up with the pills. I didn’t bother to explain; he doesn’t have empathy for the sick. I’d seen a violet bump toe in a display case of mummies. It seemed odd and happenstance. I imagined fanciful stories—perhaps the curate had forgotten it in his rush. Perhaps he hid it from his true love so his wife wouldn’t see or perhaps he hid it from his wife so his true love wouldn’t see. It was in full view—a purplish hue with a streak of red and the nail bed detached. One mummy looked nonplussed and disenchanted, agitated by the invasion of this foreign body. I felt for it deeply with its frozen eyes and twisted slit mouth. I slid a pill under a groove in the case. No one saw. As I sat revisiting this I burped and Tutankhamun materialized in his boyish Aten guise. He’d been waiting for me to arrive so I offered him another pill but he declined. The earlier one had done the job. I went back to the display case, dissolved into ether and moved Francesca Woodman-like under the glass.
Lucinda Kempe’s work has been published or is forthcoming in The Southampton Review, Elm Leaves Journal, Jellyfish Review and The Summerset Review. The recipient of the Joseph Kelly Prize for creative writing in 2015, she’s an M.F.A. candidate in writing and creative literature at Stony Brook University. Her narrative nonfiction “Sam Soss Had Sex” was a semi-finalist in the 2016 Under the Gum Tree’s inaugural contest, and her short fiction “Jeanne D’arc” (published in New World Writing) was long listed in Wigleaf’s Top 50 for 2018.