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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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The Hidden Organ

I always wanted a Visible Man or Woman when I was little. I can't remember why I never got one, and if I found one now from a secondhand dealer online, it probably would not pass the strict rules in place for allowing clutter in the house. I suppose my brother and I were lucky in that we didn't get everything we wanted when we were young. It tempers one's expectations, makes one dance, in soft, clumsy steps, with disappointment, unknowing that the dances will increase in difficulty over the course of one's life, from the Charleston to ballroom to ballet.

I don't suppose the clear plastic body, with the secrets of the circulatory system, the muscular system, the nervous system, and so on, would really give me the answers I seek. There are vague humors that drive the body: desire—to live, to create, to love others—and disappointment—full of the tiniest razorblades that will cut the body in tatters. But where do desire and disappointment live—and where do they go when we stuff them, hungry snakes, back in the peanut can? How can we want things so badly and not get them? How can it mean so little in the grand scheme of things? Why do we want things at all? How come what we have is never enough, even when we get more? Why does the black bile of desire course through our veins poisoning everything in it?

I have flirted with Buddhism on and off as an adult; the idea of draining one's desires, like a pressure value in the soul, and being at peace in a moment has always been enticing. To lay shallow roots, to have low expectations but to expect that whatever happens will be a lesson—the right lesson—seemed to be the structure I craved. A reason to be at peace with disappointment, to understand that it is as fleeting as happiness, as accomplishment. Really, how long does accomplishment last? Once you have decided you've accomplished something, it immediately turns to the past tense. I suppose the secret is to be "accomplishing" something that will take the measure of one's life; there will be infinite setbacks and gains. It will be hard to gauge progress over time. However, in the end, one will have been on a journey, and some people think that's important.

Still, I wonder where accomplishment and disappointment are hidden in the body. Undoubtedly, they are in the same thing and reside in the same hidden organ. Somewhere it hums, glows, a live wire daring to touch. When your fingers grab its bucking cord, you will receive the shock of your life. Unfortunately, you will never know which kind beforehand.