This Week in Short Fiction


As the stump speeches and primary dates continue to roll on and thousands of Americans develop stress ulcers, Darcey Steinke delivers a humorous and terrifying vision of our dystopian future should Donald Trump win the presidential election. “The Blue Toes,” over at Catapult, features a distinctly Trump-like figure called “the Tomato” and his followers, the eponymous “Blue Toes,” who rise up after the polls are called and flock to New York City to oust the liberals:

The livestream camera fixed on the side of the road showed the Blue Toes moving thick and fast. Hope saw a young woman in a red, white, and blue bikini and cowboy boots holding the hand of a little boy in a Spiderman T-shirt carrying a toy sixteen-wheeler. A man in a van with an eagle airbrushed over its doors spit brown tobacco juice toward the camera. A chubby lady had affixed a taxidermy deer head to the front of her riding lawn mower. Men in camouflage vests, rifles against their shoulders, marched with hunting dogs at their heels. There was a legless man driving a speedboat hooked to a pickup truck flying a Confederate flag. A large sunburnt man carried a chainsaw on his back like a cross.

Steinke’s descriptions of the Blue Toes elicit a laugh at the same time as a chill, but they’re also caricatures. Of the blue-collar worker, the rural poor, the under-educated and unworldly. Those often known as “white trash.” Steinke takes the stereotyped conservative image and elevates it to ridiculous heights in order to expose the occasional absurdity of liberal panic. The Tomato is thinking of putting a NASCAR track in the Central Park lawn. The Tomato is going to burn all the museums and universities to the ground. The Tomato is kicking all the Manhattanites out of their homes and relocating deer onto the island for hunting. Steinke cleverly pokes fun at the Blue Toes and the rest of us at the same time.

To top it off, it’s up to one woman in a flying green Subaru plastered with co-op stickers to stop the Tomato once and for all:

The faceoff with the Tomato would be mental, not physical. He’d accuse her of being on the rag, a bimbo, a gold digger, a fat pig. He might call her a piece of ass and insist that her corporeal form was the only thing important about her. She, in self-defense, would smite him with her feminist brain waves.

“The Blue Toes” is part post-apocalyptic narrative, a hint of wish fulfillment, and all satire, but it’s not without hope. Steinke’s story reminds us in the end that it’s not the end of the word, even if it feels like it. We do have the tools to make it through a Trumpocalypse, should it come. We will survive.

Claire Burgess’s short fiction has appeared in Third Coast, Hunger Mountain, and PANK online, among others. Her stories have received special mentions in the Pushcart Prize and Best American anthologies, but haven’t actually made it into one yet. She’s a graduate of the Vanderbilt University MFA program, where she co-founded Nashville Review. She lives in Pittsburgh by way of the deep South and says things on Twitter @Clairabou_. More from this author →