Emily Flouton


You're just a hopelessly romantic blue-tongued skink, out on your fifth crappy date this week, sitting in a choice booth at that new farm-to-table spot in Bushwick. Your date is some kind of terrestrial crustacean, ribbed across his moist, curved shell; he's going on and on about how he once bowled a 294 and how he has seven sets of lungs and how he sometimes eats his own feces to help his body retain copper. He's the worst, so you eat him.
     Across the room, leaning on the bar of reclaimed oak, you spy your nemesis and secret crush: Asher, A Big Deal in This Town. You thirst for Asher's attention, so you ignore him pointedly while stomping to the restroom in your sky-high heels. As you pass, Asher sneers at you that you're no more than a diurnal, ground-foraging omnivore, and you fire back that he's technically only the taproot portion of the beet plant. I'm a beet, he spits with gratifying pique. A beet. You break the sexual tension by climbing up the wall.
     The crazy thing is, you run into Asher next day, too, on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Luckily, you are wearing your new suede jacket and are mottled and appear angry. Neither of you has any reason to be there: beets are most commonly found underground and your species is native to Australia. You tell Asher he is full of folate, which he is, but you can't help but eye his greens, which protrude crisply from the top of him, the tips emerald and lush. His root is the dull hue of aged brick, but you know if you were to bite into him, bright vermillion juice would rush down your chin, pooling around your feet and staining the tenderness under your claws. Is this something you want to do?
     The way Asher looks at you suggests ambivalence, turmoil. Sentient beets look down on blue-tongued skinks because all blue-tongued skinks are sentient. Few beets are sentient. Asher is special. He is different from the other beets, or he isn't, but you're damn well going to decide he is.
     Three days later, you're in the kitchenware section of Macy's contemplating the purchase of a SodaStream when you run into Asher and his ex-wife. She is a carrot, sentient—of course his ex is a sentient carrot, she would be, wouldn't she, but you remind yourself that you're a queen. She knows him, though, inside the skin. She hates you. What did you expect? She's haughty. When you refer to her as a carrot, she hurls the proper term at you: daucus carota. She tosses her frilled top. Why are women like this?
     Asher is the mayor of New York City, so he has to auction himself off at a charity event to raise money to purchase new, larger garbage cans. You can't afford to bid on him—he's organic, expensive—but you hide in the back row of the auction to watch the farmers and socialites fight it out. How much cash will Asher fetch? If it's not much, will you desire him less? If it's tons, will you desire him more? Shouldn't you be able to gauge your desire for Asher without calculating his market value? Overwhelmed, you flee. Asher spots you. Leaps from the auction block. The glitterati gawp. You are slow-moving by nature so he overtakes you, ushers you into his town car. He can't help himself.
     Asher's brownstone is dirty. Blackout curtains repel the afternoon sun and there's funk, must, rot. You need—are!—light, heat. You throw open the curtains and Asher shrinks back, retreats to the dirt. Oh, things between you will never work. He wants to see your blue tongue, the famed blue tongue of the blue-tongued skink. You tend to keep it hidden, but where has that gotten you? You unfurl it. Your tongue is the too-blue of bubble gum, cotton candy, lollipops—things with no nutritional value, not beet-like at all. Shyly, you tell Asher that blue things in nature are extremely rare. He shrugs and says, Your legs are short.
     Your legs are short. But you want his root. But you slither off home.
     At dusk the following day, Asher turns up at your cream and beige loft. You're mortified to be caught in a state of deshabille, flawless in a peach silk robe. He needs you to attend a lavish gala as his date and has even brought you a lavish gown to wear. You don't hate it. At the gala, Asher shows you off proudly, possessively—wonderfully, can this be real life? Asher says to the sentient kohlrabi: Look how blue her tongue is. Blue things in nature are extremely rare. You recoil. That's your line. He has shown his moldy underside. You down a flute of passable Californian sparkling wine. You Irish goodbye it and crawl home through the slop of the gutter.
     Asher calls and texts but you aren't having it. Once again he turns up at your cream and beige loft. Through the door, Asher says he knows he is supposed to grovel, but he won't. Through the door, Asher says he has come to claim what is his: you. That is how things work in the animal kingdom, he says. You tell him he is not an animal, not even an animal. You are one. For days, weeks, he sits on your stoop in the Manhattan sun, withering into a beet who is older, inexplicably handsomer, admired by pedestrians. You know how this story ends: you open the door and let him in. Anytime now, you can let him in. This is the part where you let him in.





When I wrote this, I was doing freelance work adapting romance novels into video game scripts. After a while, the structures of the romance novels started to seem like repetitive gibberish to me, in the way that a word begins to sound like gibberish if you say it too many times. I wanted to see what I could make out of that feeling. Also, blue-tongued skinks are [glorious].