This story was a result of perhaps the craziest writing prompt I have ever been given. First I selected 4 numbers at random which corresponded to these requirements: an aging athlete, a celebration/party, sometime in December, something embarrassing has just happened. THEN I was given a list of 20 required sentences: a sentence with light, a sentence with texture, a sentence with sound, a sentence with dialogue of 10 words or less, a sentence with an object smaller than a hand… etc. These had to appear in the story IN ORDER. Needless to say I thought Geeta, my Kenyon Review Writer Workshop instructor, was crazy for assigning us this Mad Libs-equse prompt. Then I wrote the story, and I rather liked it.

Warning: Not for kids. Due to awkward incident involving male & female private parts. Read at your own risk.

David Kozlov hurries out of the bathroom, fast as he can with the limp, and then assumes a casual stance against the far wall of the reception hall. Outside the fierce December air clamors to come in, but a large commercial fireplace insulates the wedding party and their guests. After so many years of hockey, David feels more at home in the ice and snow, but alas his duties lay here tonight.

He jumps at the sound of tinkling glass, looks up to see his son and new daughter-in-law kissing. His son waves, happy. David smiles back.

“And now, the father-daughter dance!”

At the deejay’s prompting, Sara Beth and her father walk to the center of the parquet floor. A spotlight searches them out, focuses in. They begin to move to the swell of violins, and everyone but David watches.

“Doesn’t she look beautiful tonight? Like a princess, and this is her fairytale.”

David nods, shifts his gaze to the floor. Sara Beth does look beautiful, but he cannot say so. Not after seeing her naked in the bathroom just a few minutes ago. She was changing out of her wedding gown and into the reception dress. Objectively, her body looked more than beautiful; it was exquisite.

On David’s wedding day, his bride Alena wore a tight bodice that lifted her breasts and sucked in her waist. They had met twice before, at her parents’ house in Russia, but he was not yet accustomed to the sight of her, and the rise of cleavage excited him.

When at last they stood alone by their bed, he kissed her brow. His sweaty fingers slipped and fumbled against the buttons of her bodice, but eventually he got them undone.

When her breasts were unveiled, he felt disappointed, deceived. They were smaller than his hands, unresponsive to his rough palms. When Alena dutifully reached down to his crotch, he backed away. His penis remained flaccid, refusing to reward the lies her dress had told.

They collapsed onto the bed in disappointment and frustration.

“We’re just going to pretend that never happened, right?”

It is Sara Beth, who has finished dancing with her father.

“What never happened?” David replies.

She smiles and makes the OK sign with her right hand.

As Sara Beth walks back to his son—her husband—David feels a strange ache in his bum leg. Then Alena cuts into his line of vision, and he feels a different kind of pang.

“Gorbachev signed the treaty,” she says, and he nods.

Alena’s breasts are no longer small. With motherhood they became ample and firm, as did David’s appreciation for his wife. Now when he takes her breasts in his hands, he is filled not only with lust, but also with images. Of Alena bathing their son in a plastic wading pool. Alena cutting the crusts off their sandwiches. Alena holding his hand at his father’s funeral.

She is ice, snow, home.

David takes her hand and whispers, “You are exquisite.”

They kiss, and the pain in his leg subsides.