Exploring the art of prose


Author: Jona Whipple

Canines by Jona Whipple

Image is a color photograph of a basketball hoop under a cloudy sky; title card for the new flash creative nonfiction essay, "Canines," by Jona Whipple.

  She says go like this and bares her teeth at me, lips pulled back. All the other girls lean in to see inside my mouth, too close. I smell the leather of their shoes, but I don’t flinch. Jagged,…

Read More

Author’s Note

A few years ago, I saw a new dentist. She sat down across from me and said, “Tell me about your teeth.” By then, I had been talking about my childhood abuse for long enough to know that it made people uncomfortable. I always felt that I needed to fill the space with some kind of explanation, set up a historical timeline of what happened to me: so that I would be believed, so that I wouldn’t be blamed, so that everyone would feel better. But in the clinical setting of the dentist’s office, with the x-ray of my teeth projected in shades of gray over my head like evidence, it became possible to share just a small part of the story, and for that small part to be enough. That moment with my dentist was where this piece began.

When I was a girl, I liked stories with rich language, stories heavy with natural imagery, magical animals, forests with branches curved like cathedrals, piles of bones in abandoned caves. I couldn’t help but rely on that language to tell the story of a child wandering through a landscape of danger. Often, my remembrances of childhood are tied to the life spans of family dogs, and in writing this piece, I relied so much on the dogs of my memory that they became a metaphor, and very nearly a character. Their presence gave a new layer of meaning to how fear is used to control; how even the strongest need to run can be suppressed by the slightest desire to please.

This piece dives, eyes open, into the visceral, heightened sense of a cornered animal in search of an escape. I wanted this piece to encapsulate the suffocating sense of small towns, and of living in a cycle of repeated, recognized, and permitted generational trauma. My hope is that the final lines convey not just the difficulty, but also the possibility, of freedom.


JONA WHIPPLE is a writer, librarian, and archivist, in that order. She is currently pursuing her MFA in fiction writing at the University of Missouri–Saint Louis. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chestnut Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Heavy Feather Review, Catapult, Hypertext, Bluestem, and others. She lives in Missouri, dangerously close to where she was born. Find her on Instagram @jonabologna.