Thirteen of the Secrets in My Purse

One: My lipstick.

The shade is Heart’s Blood.

Morbid, if you ask me.

I wanted to know if it was really the color of heart’s blood so I bought beef heart and tried dabbing my lips.

Close enough.

I emailed to congratulate the lipstick company on their realism. They did not respond.

Two: My wallet.

When it arrived in the mail, it was stuffed with school photos.

Not from one kid or two or ten. So many my wallet was bursting.

I contacted the store. They said anything in my wallet was a freebie and hung up.

I didn’t know what to do with the pictures.

It seemed like it might scare the parents if I tracked down the kids.

I didn’t even know for sure they were real kids.

I couldn’t throw them out.

I couldn’t shred them.

I put them in a shoe box in my closet.

When I opened my wallet again, there were three more. It makes one every twenty-three minutes.

I keep having to get more shoe boxes.

Three: My keys.

Some of my keys have transformed into other keys.

This is inconvenient because I can no longer get into my mailbox or my car.

One of the new keys is shining gold. I find it suspicious. (The others are respectably dingy.)

Whenever the golden key is near the wrong lock—which so far is any lock—it turns searing hot. As a result, I now have several burn scars on my hands.

If a key can be a jerk, then the golden key is a jerk.

I’d throw it into a dumpster somewhere, but I can’t get it off the ring.

Four: Some other lipstick.

The color is Pomegranate Passion.

I’m ninety-five percent sure I didn’t buy it, but that hasn’t stopped it from being in my purse.

I bought a pair of pomegranates, placed them on the counter, and read them the world’s greatest love poems.

I lit incense.

I played smooth jazz.

When I came back in the morning, the pomegranates were the same shade.

I have emailed the lipstick company.

Five: The pearl from the sacred heart of the Earth.

I keep it in a mint tin.

Six: My passport.

It vacations without me.

It comes home flaunting exotic stamps.

Sometimes it comes home with notes inside. Par example: “Ma petite passport! Restez ici! Tout le France t’aiment!”

Sometimes I can’t read the notes because they’re in other languages.

Sometimes I can’t read the notes because they’re in other alphabets.

I really hate the notes I can’t read because they’re sloppy.

Those people can go to hell.

Seven: The lipsticks considered as a pair.

The lipstick company has emailed back.

“Unfortunately, Heart’s Blood has been recalled while unapproved materials are removed from our factories. Please return your product so it can be given to relatives of the deceased.

“Regarding your other letter, we regret to tell you the homofructal pomegranate population has suffered in the global drought. Try again with heterofructal couplings. We recommend kiwi or yellow pears.”

Eight: The zipper.

It complains. A lot of them do.

The trick is listening past the metal noises of the teeth so you can concentrate on the tab.

Mine says, “Stop!” when I pick it up.

It says, “I hate you!” as I drag it.

It says, “I will have my revenge!” as I set it aside.

I keep having nightmares about zippers.

Nine: The picture of this one kid I can’t forget.

It came from the wallet.

I just couldn’t put it in the shoebox.

I don’t know what it is about her.

The gaps between her teeth.

The mismatched eyes, brown and blue.

The clouding natural hair.

The way she’s looking at the camera.

Like she’s searching for someone on the other side. Like someone on the other side should be searching for her.

Ten: The pear.

I bought fruit to bring home to the pomegranates.

I placed the two pomegranates beside a plum, two bananas, a pineapple and a pear. I considered including a passionfruit, but it seemed like cheating.

In the morning, one pomegranate was still lonely, but the other one had rolled beside the plum. It flushed with the flamboyance of a sunset.

I tried some of the lipstick on it.

The colors match, but I fear the pear has become jealous. I have tucked it in my purse so it doesn’t have to watch the new couple.

Eleven: My compact.

Its exterior used to be shiny, but now it’s smeared with fingerprints and general grime.

I opened it to see if the mirror was still usable.

I stared back at me. (The mirror was fine.)

The me in the mirror said, “Oh, good, I’ve been waiting. Listen. I asked me to tell me something when I saw me.”

I struggled to parse that. “…I asked myself to tell myself something? What are you talking about?”

Mirror me grumbled, “I told me I wouldn’t understand, but I wouldn’t listen.”

“Just give me the message.”

“Check your mail.”

“I don’t have a key,” I reminded myself, annoyed. “It transformed.”

Mirror me threw up my hands in frustration. “Take that up with me, not me.” My hand snaked out of the mirror and pulled the compact shut.

Twelve: The plane ticket.

The next time I opened my purse, the zipper said, “Look for the girl in the photograph.”

I almost missed it because I’m used to ignoring the zipper’s abuse.

I unzipped my purse again.

“She is the rightful holder of the pearl.”

I kept the zipper moving.

“You will find her among the missing children. The others will guide you.”

I jiggled the tab to see if there was more, but it ignored me.

I opened my purse to see what else would happen.

My wallet unrolled, spilling a dozen new kids’ photos I hadn’t moved to the shoebox yet. Its billfold opened. Inside, there was a single plane ticket, economy.

My passport flipped to the destination. I’d never heard of it. My passport had been there several times. A note I’d never noticed before read: “Don’t worry, I’ll pay for the drinks.”

The golden key has acquired a halo.

I’m more interested in the newly appeared, rusty key that used to unlock my bike.

The pear didn’t do anything so I decided to have a snack.

The girl in the photograph giggled.


I took my advice and went to check my mail before leaving.

I had no idea how I was going to get into my mailbox without a key, but it turned out not to matter.

A package from the lipstick company sat on top of the boxes.

The accompanying letter read, “In appreciation of your dedication to color testing, we would like to request your help assessing the accuracy of our newest product prototype.”

I unwrapped the lipstick.

It was labeled “Adventure.”

It seemed like a bad idea, but I tried it on anyway.


Rachel Swirsky

Rachel Swirsky holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop where she, a California native, learned about writing and snow. She traded the snow for rain by moving to Portland, Oregon, where she happily dwells under overcast skies. Her short stories have appeared in numerous venues, including, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Rachel has been nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, and twice won the Nebula Award. Her purse appears to contain no pockets of inter dimensional instability, except possibly a wormhole to the planet of stray pens.

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