“The Ceremony” by Laryssa Wirstiuk

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Gross, thought Ruby, before her cab driver bumped a sweaty female jogger as she ran into the street. With Ruby still in the backseat, the cabbie jumped out to assess the accident.

“I’ve been training months for this half marathon, and now this?”

The jogger’s elbow was bleeding.

So gross. Ruby always rode the cab to and from the subway stop three blocks from her apartment. The last thing she needed was sweat on her Rag & Bone V-neck. Unable to bear the scene, she dropped more than the appropriate amount of cash on the driver’s seat and walked the remaining half-block home.

Why would anyone put herself through the torture of a half marathon? Ruby wondered as she walked, kicking empty paper cups at pigeons. She didn’t understand the purpose of creating challenges where none existed.

Suddenly the jogger, who moments before had been knocked on the ground, was running past Ruby like the fox that had died for her vintage winter hat. The scene was more beautiful and moving than the blood bath at the spring/summer 2015 Comme des Garçons runway show.

“Wait!” shouted Ruby.

The jogger turned her head without stopping.

Ruby pulled a handkerchief from her bag.

“I saw what happened, and I want you to have this. For your arm.”

The jogger shook her head and sped away.

“How about fois gras poutine tonight?” asked Ruby’s roommate, Ted, as she entered their two-bedroom Greenpoint apartment. “I’ve been following that food truck on Twitter.”

Before she could answer, Ruby ran past Ted toward the bathroom, but couldn’t reach the toilet. A spray of vomit stuck to the subway-tiled wall.

“Are you okay?” Ted asked, standing in the doorway and looking at his watch. “Too early to be wasted from happy hour.”

“I mean, it was gross, but not that gross,” she said.

“What are you talking about?”

“My cab. We had an accident. Hit a jogger. She was sweaty and bleeding,” said Ruby.

“Everyone’s okay, though?”

“Yeah, everyone’s okay, but want to know something messed up? It’s probably the most interesting thing that’s happened to me all week,” said Ruby. “I just don’t feel inspired anymore.”

“I can’t tell if you’re being serious,” said Ted, shaking his head.

“It’s serious.”

“I wish I had your life: your glam fashion career, your Coachella-headlining bar buddies,” said Ted. ”What else could you want?”

“Everything’s too easy, you know?” Ruby paused. “Next thing you’re going to tell me is that the poutine food truck is parked right outside.”

“How did you know?”

“That’s what I mean,” said Ruby. “Before we walk a few feet for $12 French fries, I’ll use all-natural, organic cleaning spray to clean up my puke, while other women are mopping other people’s waste with toxic chemicals. Just to make ends meet.”

“So be grateful and volunteer once a month,” said Ted. “You earned it.”

“Remember when you did that cleanse last year?” asked Ruby. “I made fun of you, but you looked amazing by the end.”


“I want to do that: challenge myself. I want to create an obstacle.”

“You do remember that I ate vegan for an entire month, right?” said Ted.

“That means no poutine, no candied bacon, no barbacoa tacos. Not even lattes. It means eating healthy to ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients.”

“There’s always almond milk,” said Ruby, who popped a gummy multivitamin only when she was nervous and needed something to chew. “Anyway, I’m ready. But I need a ceremony to initiate me into my new life. And I think you should perform it, since you’ve done the whole vegan thing.”

“Um, okay, but I still want poutine,” said Ted. “Will that upset you?”

Before Ruby could answer, she pulled Ted into her bedroom, where she lifted an antler headdress from its place on a decorative coat rack. Ruby had won the artisanal accessory, designed by an Etsy crafter and decorated with leather and feathers, at a benefit hosted by her hero Dov Charney.

“We’re taking this to the roof,” said Ruby.

Outside, the sun setting behind buildings beyond the East River illuminated Ruby’s blond hair.

“I think I have to be the animal in order to feel inspired not to eat it.”

“I think you’ve lost your mind,” said Ted.

A breeze from the waterfront shifted the headdress on Ruby’s head, and a sharp, unfinished edge cut her forehead. She felt for the injury and pulled her bloody fingers away from her face.

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LaryssaHeadshotLaryssa Wirstiuk lives in Jersey City, NJ with her dachshund, Charlotte. She teaches creative writing and writing for digital media at Rutgers University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Crab Fat, Gargoyle Magazine, Word Riot, and Up the Staircase Quarterly.


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