Beth Ann Fennelly
Reduced Sentences


I Come From a Long Line of Modest Achievers


I’m fond of recalling how my mother is fond of recalling how my great-grandfather was the very first person to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on the second day.





Bought a bag of frozen peas to numb my husband’s sore testicles after his vasectomy.


That night I cooked pea soup. 



I Knew a Woman


Everything she had was better than everything the rest of us had.  Not by a lot.  But by enough.



Married Love, 1


When we snuggle, my left hand finds purchase on his back cyst.  My home button.



Why I’m Switching Salons


“We can put on a topcoat with glitter,” said the manicurist.  “We all know how you feel about glitter.”



Copulation Couplet

--for the birds and other open-minded parties--


Birds without penises do it like this:

press vent to vent and pass the sperm, called “the cloacal kiss.” 



“If You Were Born Catholic, You’ll Always Be Catholic”


My husband sits up after changing the van’s busted tire, grease on his forehead, and I think—though it’s been thirty years—it’s Ash Wednesday. 



Married Love, 2


There will come a day—let it be many years from now—when our kids realize no married couple ever needed to retreat at high noon behind their locked bedroom door to discuss taxes. 



No, It’s Not a Coincidence


In every book my husband’s written, a minor character named Colin suffers a horrible death.  This is because the boyfriend I had before I met my husband was named Colin.  In addition to being named Colin, he was Scottish, and an architect.  So it’s easy to imagine my husband’s feelings of inadequacy.  My husband cannot build a tall building of many stories.  He can only build a story, and then push Colin out of it.



Returning from Spring Break, Junior Year at Notre Dame


Swapped the rosary on my bedpost for Mardi Gras beads.



Still Have the Playbill


I peaked early, fourth grade.  I had the lead in Mary Poppins.  Mr. Banks was played by Vince Vaughn.  Yes, that Vince Vaughn, though at that point he was just a kid, just another nobody like the rest of us.  He didn’t go to Hollywood until after high school.


I don’t recall him as being particularly talented.   



The Sum of What I Recall, One Year Later, from the Prague Walking Tour


Kafka was not the unhappy person we generally assume him to be.



When They Grow Up


My oldest child will hate me because I wrote an entire book about her.  My middle child will hate me because I wrote hardly a word about him.  But the baby; ah, the baby.  When I write about him, I call it fiction, and I’m always sure to mention he has a big penis. 



 (Don’t Think About the) Pink Elephant


Sometimes at the end of yoga I’m finally relaxing into that calm where I’ve forgotten my to-do list.   That’s when the instructor says, “Don’t think about your to-do list.”  Suddenly it’s back, and it’s longer, because now it includes forgetting my to-do list. 



A Few Weeks Later, the Recorded But Not Yet Released “Dock of the Bay” Would Become History’s First Posthumous #1 Hit


It was storming, that December day in 1967, when the two-engine plane containing twenty-six-year-old Otis Redding and his back-up band, the Bar-Kays, took off from Cleveland.  Just a few miles short of the Madison, Wisconsin airport, the plane crashed into Lake Monona.  The crash killed Otis, his pilot, his manager, and four out of five Bar-Kays.  Only the lonely trumpeter survived. 


He was the one who played Taps.



Married Love, 3


As we lower onto the December-cold pleather seats of the minivan, we knock hands: both of us reaching to turn on the other’s seat warmer first. 


Found In Volume 45, No. 05
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  • beth ann fennelly
Beth Ann Fennelly
About the Author

Beth Ann Fennelly is the author of six books, including Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, forthcoming from W. W. Norton in fall of 2017.  She's the Poet Laureate of Mississippi, and teaches at the University of Mississippi.