Archive for May, 2014

Closed for Submissions During June

May 31 2014 Published by under News

During the month of June, First Stop Fiction will be closed to new submissions.

This year, First Stop Fiction has attracted many more submissions than we have before. We’ve gotten behind on our queue. We used to be able to respond to submissions within a few days, but now we are too far behind for this to be feasible. So we’re going to take a month to handle all submissions currently pending.

We’ll keep publishing stories as usual! The only difference from usual is that we won’t be taking new submissions for one month. If you’ve submitted to us already, rest assured we will respond.

You may notice that it is not yet June. If you’d like to submit to us before we close for a month, therefore, please do so today.

And, while you’re on the site, please do check back in a couple weeks for the next story.

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Kissing Teeth by Kayla Pongrac Schwerer

May 30 2014 Published by under Stories

My husband Troy was born without lips. I often mistook his constantly exposed teeth for clouds or marble countertops, which led me to believe that he was the kind of guy who would sit me down and read me Thoreau’s “Walden” from cover to cover, or at the very least, write me a poem that reminded me of a balloon being released from captivity between a little girl’s toes.

While classmates made fun of Troy, I stood beside him in gym class, shared a seat with him on the bus, and combed his hair every day after school. There was only one thing that Troy enjoyed more than getting his hair combed, and that was kissing. I was Troy’s first kiss; it happened during our sixth grade dance. He leaned in; I leaned out; he leaned in some more. I would compare that kiss to building a sandcastle in the middle of a snowstorm: it just didn’t work. Not because everyone was pointing and laughing at us, but because I had no experience whatsoever when it came to kissing teeth.

Even if the person you’re currently dating was born with lips, I bet you don’t know how to kiss that person’s teeth in such a way that would make butterflies-to-be perspire in their silky cocoons. And I bet you wouldn’t know how much pressure to apply to his teeth with your tongue so that you could use his plaque to tell the current temperature of Alaska.

No one ever said that kissing teeth was easy. But there, in Troy’s open cavern of a mouth, I’ve since discovered hieroglyphics that make Egyptians look like porn stars. I’ve baptized and named all of my unborn children. I’ve lifted my lantern above my head and sang “Hallelujah” in my best operatic voice.

Every night while tucking Troy into bed, his mother tried to comfort him by insisting that he could kiss any girl he wanted and that there were other people in the world just like him—people born without certain body parts or features. Armless people, legless people, hairless people, fingerless people: these people exist, she would say, so let’s try to dream about them tonight!

Instead, Troy dreamed of another group of people: the heartless.

“Lipless Loser” remained Troy’s nickname all throughout school, and despite warnings from teachers, our classmates still found ways to remind Troy that he was a “freak.” Combing his hair every day after school, as simple a task it was, became a way for me to help Troy relax and forget about the relentless teasing.

So, too, did kissing.

We kissed so much that I eventually realized that it wasn’t I who was teaching Troy how to kiss; he was teaching me. There were times when Troy would kiss me so passionately that I thought I was capable of counting all of his tastebuds. Other times, he kissed me so gently that I thought his teeth were made of freshly spun cotton candy.

This year for our 10-year wedding anniversary, I’m buying Troy a new comb: a fine-toothed comb that’s not nearly as fine as the teeth in Troy’s mouth that I never tire of counting with the tip of my calloused tongue.

 Kayla Pongrac Schwerer is a writer, reader, chai tea drinker, and vinyl record spinner. To read more of Kayla’s work, visit

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