Emily Anderson Ula

I’m searching for my daughters on my desktop. I had printed copies, but they’ve somehow been misplaced. I search in Finder using keywords such as Apple of my Eye and Light of my Life and Darling and Sweet Angel and Sugar Pie. I can’t seem to remember their given names. Not that it matters, because they’ve legally changed them. They could be anyone by now.

I submit a request for tech support. The chat representative’s name is Fundip.

Have you looked for them in the cloud? 

I’m not sure. What is the cloud?

I can feel Fundip rolling her eyes.

The next level of daughter storage. Daughters can last forever in the cloud. They can be accessed and updated by any device.

Isn’t there some other way? I need paper copies. I like a solid, tangible daughter. A crisp-edged, hot-off-the-press daughter.

Archaic. I wouldn’t recommend it. That’s the most precarious format for daughters. What if your house burns down?

Listen, Fundip. I don’t need parenting advice from a teenager named after a crude snack.

Wow. No wonder your daughters ghosted you. Toxic Momitivity alert.

It’s you! I blurt to no one. How did I not recognize her at once? Fundip, of course, is a collective of the daughters I’ve failed throughout the years. Shape-shifting warrior daughters who accuse me of amorphism and complacency and recklessness and reading the wrong news sources. Daughters who strike with alacrity and take offense to my offense.

Wait! I’m sorry.

No response. I’ve hurt her again. It happens the same way each time. I just want to hold her, smooth her brittle blue amphibious hair, but all I can do is criticize, until she folds herself neatly into a paper crane and flies away.

Fundip? Are you still there?

Please don’t leave me, I want to say. But I mustn’t sound desperate. I’ve lost several daughters this way. I’ve lost daughters to floods and riots and pandemics of the bleeding-heart sort even though my own heart was bleeding out plain as day and my daughters couldn’t be bothered to notice.

I’m here…

My cursor blinks. I exhale.

If you haven’t backed up your daughters, I can’t help.

I didn’t realize.

Most mothers don’t until it’s too late. Is there anything else I can do for you today, mam?

I chuckle at her misspelling, which only makes me love her more. If I squint, it looks like she’s called me mom. Come home, I start to type, but then think better of it and delete.

Is there a way I can reach you directly next time?

Every query goes into the main queue. How would you rate your satisfaction with our conversation today?


The chat box goes gray.

Fundip is offline.

I print a transcript of the chat. Not quite a daughter, but a glimmer of daughterness. Proof I’m making the effort. Before I can admire that parchmenty, new-daughter smell, she creases down the middle, folding inward, taking the shape of a paper airplane. Moving toward the open window. Not even a chemtrail.

Emily Anderson Ula is a writer and a speech-language pathologist. She earned her MFA in Fiction Writing from The University of the South, Sewanee. Her stories have been published in The Cincinnati Review, The Baltimore Review, Chestnut Review, Cagibi, Pithead Chapel, Passages North (forthcoming), Flash Fiction Online (forthcoming), and elsewhere. Most of her writing ideas come from dreams. When not conducting speech therapy, she is working on a collection of linked stories and a novel.