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——— finalist ———

Ancient Wisdom

Lavanya Vasudevan

At our wedding ceremony, which his family has paid for because mine couldn’t, he points out his grandmother, beaming at us from the front row. She is renowned for the reasons that women of an older generation usually are: outliving her husband by two decades, raising seven children on her own, ruling the household servants with an iron fist. She is an enormous woman, resplendent in voluminous silk. I see her sons have done their duty: her arm jingles with gold bangles, her earlobes dangle with emeralds, the diamonds flash in her nose-ring, as white as her teeth when she throws back her head and laughs. I bend down and touch her toes, ask for her blessing, and she grabs my arm and pulls me close. I expect she’ll haul out the same old saw, dulled by repetition: “May you live to be the mother of a hundred sons.”

Her rough, urgent whisper rasps in my inner ear, rends my future forever in two: “First thing you do tomorrow morningopen a bank account, just for yourself. Never, never, not in ten thousand years, must you tell your husband.”


LAVANYA VASUDEVAN was born in a large city in South India that has since renamed itself. She is a recovering software engineer who lives near Seattle, Washington and reviews children’s books for Kirkus. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Pidgeonholes, Paper Darts, Lost Balloon, and elsewhere. Find her on the web at or on Twitter @vanyala.


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