FICTION: Venn Diagram by Liz Matthews

No comments

Agree or disagree:

  • Most adults don’t remember what it was like to be young.
  • We must leave our innocence behind in order to mature.
  • Your life is what you make of it – nothing more, nothing less.

I remember Cody’s eyes darting around behind his glasses, like a goldfinch perched outside a windowpane. I remember that face nodding along as I gave directions. The kind of student you wrote lessons plans for, who worked well with others, who got his energy out where and when he was supposed to. The perfect hybrid of Phineas and Gene.

My Language Arts classroom had only three walls, the fourth replaced with the hallway that connected to the other rooms. A horseshoe that we lived in together from that September to June. The windows showcased mostly snowy fields tinged with mud, gray skies. Outside, it smelled of nearby farms, and the blue-green algae on Lake Champlain. I don’t remember what Cody’s voice sounded like, but I bet that it was high-pitched, that it hadn’t changed yet. Seventh grade was made up of toddlers and teenagers. Cody hadn’t had his growth spurt yet.

I don’t recognize his face in his obituary five years later. The glasses are gone. He has braces. His rosy lips are faded pink; his face has caught up with his features, and he looks more now like the man he will never become. I’m not surprised to read that he was high honors, that he taught other kids how to make healthy choices. That he was confident and a confidant.

What was that game I played with my students when we had a few minutes left at the end of class? I see myself, seven months pregnant, galloping around the room with my hands and arms clapped together above my head.

“You look like a pregnant giraffe,” Cody said.

Everyone laughed. I paused to catch my breath. This is what I always remember when I think about that year, 2007, the only year I taught in Shelburne, Vermont. Also: round ligament pain. Piles of snow, with no snow days. The Pigman, The Outsiders, A Separate Peace. Decisions. Wide leg child’s pose. Driving up Mt. Philo beside my students who hiked. The year that Grace Paley died, and I traveled down to Montpelier for her memorial service.

On the whiteboard, I wrote… Do now:

  • What do you do when you feel isolated?
  • Write about a close friend. What makes them so close?
  • Make a Venn diagram of the three main characters’ traits. In the center, the traits should overlap.

My six year old sneaks downstairs with a plastic sword. He smiles when he sees me, but cries ten minutes later when he can’t figure out how to make a frog out of origami paper. Five years until he’s eleven. Another five until sixteen. Bigger kids, bigger problems, my mom always says when I complain about this age.

I have turned off the alerts for Facebook Messenger, but once in a while I find my way there. In 2012, I had a four-year-old and a one-year-old when I clicked on a message from an old colleague and learned about Cody’s fatal car accident on an icy road on his way to high school. Usually I keep samples of students’ writing in my files, but the year I taught Cody, I was distracted. I can only find quizzes, notes on motif, foreshadow, theme. I wanted to remember him more. I wanted to find Cody’s words hidden there between a vocabulary test and its answer key. I looked for his face in my mind. Did he learn anything about life in that year that our paths crossed? He had only five more years left, but they were the years that his body would grow the most. By sixteen, when he lost his life, most boys have stopped growing. I wonder if his parents worried that he was a late bloomer. He is eternally eleven to me, along with all of his classmates who never really grow once they leave my classroom. Now he exists in that space in between those three connected circles of time: eleven-years-old, sixteen-years-old, and whatever follows.


Liz Matthews

Liz Matthews received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her fiction and essays have appeared, or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, Brain Child, Brevity, Spelk, Milk Candy Review, and The Tishman Review. She teaches writing at Westport Writers’ Workshop in Connecticut.

If you enjoyed ‘Venn Diagram’  leave a comment and let Liz know.

You can find and follow Liz at:

You can read more of Liz’s writing below:

Details of previous publications & links:
“No-See-Ums” at Spelk

“The Periphery: Preserving your writing time” at Brevity:


Available Now!

This is the tale of a town on the fringes of fear, of ordinary people and everyday objects transformed by terror and madness, a microcosm of the world where nothing is ever quite what it seems. This is a world where the unreal is real, where the familiar and friendly lure and deceive. On the outskirts of civilisation sits this solitary town. Home to the unhinged. Oblivion to outsiders.

Shallow Creek contains twenty-one original horror stories by a chilling cast of contemporary writers, including stories by Sarah Lotz, Richard Thomas, Adrian J Walker, and Aliya Whitely. Told through a series of interconnected narratives, Shallow Creek is an epic anthology that exposes the raw human emotion and heart-pounding thrills at the the genre’s core.

Shallow Creek Paperback
Set of Horror Bookmarks


U.K. £14.99

U.S.A/CANADA £24.99

EUROPE £19.99



You can also purchase a copy of EXIT EARTH below!



Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.

From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.

EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.

Find out more about EXIT EARTH here


Unlike many other Arts & Entertainment Magazines, STORGY is not Arts Council funded or subsidised by external grants or contributions. The content we provide takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce, and relies on the talented authors we publish and the dedication of a devoted team of staff writers. If you enjoy reading our Magazine, help to secure our future and enable us to continue publishing the words of our writers. Please make a donation or subscribe to STORGY Magazine with a monthly fee of your choice. Your support, as always, continues to inspire.PayPal-Donate-Button

Sign up to our mailing list and never miss a new short story.

Leave a Reply