by Cody T. Luff
Set in the far future, Ration is an unflinching take on the ways society
can both thrive and go wrong as pressure to survive builds.
All the girls who live in the Apartments are forced to weigh their own
hunger against the lives of the others living in the building. When
Cynthia is wrongly accused of ordering an “A” ration, she
punished by the other girls. Eventually, she is forced to leave the
Apartments along with Ms. Glennoc, one of the former managers who has
tormented and abused her for years. Together, they encounter a world
of even more scarcity, but one filled with politics and intrigue.
Cynthia struggles to return to the Apartments and help the girls who
are still there.
Forced to reconcile her role in the destruction of these girls with the
greater needs of society to find any sustainable source of calories,
Ms. Tuttle makes one bad decision after another while she grapples
with a mother who is growing more and more impatient with her
Ration is a dark and forceful book, written in a surprisingly nuanced and
accessible way. It combines the darkness and despair of The
Road and The Handmaid’s Tale, but has notes of
charm like Lauren Oliver’s Replica.
Cynthia stops eating after the scream finally trails off. The power is still out, and the smell of her B-ration hangs meaty and dense in the still air of her Apartment. She’s cross-leggedon the rug in the kitchen, her naked feet white even in the darkness.
A deep glubbing sound burbles in the wall; someone flushes a toilet above her. She swallows and winces as B-ration bits stick to her throat. She waits a moment more, allowing even the biologic gurgle of the building’s plumbing to quiet before she forks another mouthful from the plastic ration pouch. Third floor, she thinks. Scream is on the third floor, still above, just not far above.
After she finishes the last of her ration, the power hisses to life, the ceiling fan jerks to a spin, the fluorescents in the kitchen click to life, and the little radio she keeps by the bathroom door retches static. Cynthia stands slowly, her stomach begging her for another ration even as it disagrees with what she’s given it.
“That’s what we have,” she says. “Hang on to it.”
The door bangs, a flat palm in the hallway slapping the thin wood. Cynthia freezes, finger covering her mouth.
Cynthia hiccups, belches softly, and sags where she stands. Imeld. Of course, it’s Imeld.
“Cinnie, did you hear that one?”
“Just a second.” Cynthia scuffs her barefoot way to the door, one hand pressed to the flat of her belly. She pulls the sliding latch and chain, stepping away as Imeld slips into the Apartment.
“I’m pretty sure that was on the third floor, right? You heard that one, right?” Imeld takes Cynthia’s hand immediately, her cold fingers like water.
“I heard it,” Cynthia says. She closes the door with her free hand and slides the latch. “I would say the third floor, too.”
Imeld is small, even for the Apartments. Dark hair that riots away from her brown face in startled waves. “I don’t know anyone on the third floor. Well, not really. I know Mei and Shuvo, but …” Imeld pulls her hand away, frowning. She brings her fingers to her nose. “You were eating,” she says.
Cynthia stands motionless. She does not meet Imeld’s eyes, instead studying her friend’s stockinged feet. Imeld is wearing the red pair, one brown heel completely nude and wreathed in worn threads, almost like curled springs. “Yes.”
Imeld does not speak, she doesn’t need to.
“It was a B.”
“Cynthia,” Imeld says, her voice nothing more than a whisper.
Cynthia turns away, pulling her arms to her chest. “What could I do?”
The building hums around them, the newly restored power feeding the other Apartments in the complex. From somewhere above, a television laugh track rolls uninterrupted, a hair dryer hisses next door.
Imeld’s fingers find her hands and pull Cynthia’s arms gently apart. “It’s okay, Cinnie.
It’s all right.” Imeld is hugging her, standing on her tiptoes and pulling Cynthia against the sharp angles of her body. “How long was it?”
Cynthia shakes her head; Imeld’s hair smells of government soap and chicory coffee. “I don’t know. Maybe three days.”
“Oh, Cinnie,” Imeld says, and they hold each other for a moment, both cold and glad for the warmth of the other. Without agreeing to, they sit on the little rug in the kitchen, hands still entwined.
Cody T Luff’s forthcoming novel, Ration, will be released by Apex Book Company in
2019. Cody’s stories have appeared in Pilgrimage, Cirque, KYSO
Flash, Menda City Review, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, and others. He is
fiction winner of the 2016 Montana Book Festival Regional Emerging
Writers Contest. He served as editor of an anthology of short fiction
with twelve contributors titled Soul’s Road.
Cody teaches at Portland Community College and works as a story editor. He completed
an intensive MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Cody grew
up listening to stories in his grandfather’s barber shop as he
shined shoes, stories told to him at bedsides and on front porches,
deep in his father’s favorite woods, and in the cabs of pickup
trucks on lonely dirt roads. Cody’s work explores those things both
small and wondrous that move the soul, whether they be deeply real or
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