Madeline Cash: Earth Angel

In her electric debut, Madeline Cash synthesizes the godlessness of the digital age into a glimmering, sublime, life-affirming collage of stories. Earth Angel is a book like no other, the paperback that swallowed the smartphone. An Isis recruit, an adolescent beauty queen, and a childless millennial walk into a bar. A Biblical plague rains down head lice, aerial drone strikes, gender non-conforming frogs. An app throws a slumber party for a friendless office worker. Texans in the winter, the Taliban in springtime, Teslas with COEXIST bumper stickers, Frozen 5 in Arabic, architectural consistency laws in Laurel Canyon, the longest recorded nosebleed in history. Such are denizens in the ethereal world of Earth Angel. An unhinged jet stream that is ultramodern and poignantly timeless, capturing the angst of the post-millennial generation.Anika Jade Levy 

Madeline Cash’s fiction has appeared in Joyland, The Drift, The Baffler, Carve, Hobart, and The Literary Review, among other publications. She is also the founder and co-editor of Forever Magazine.

Here we share an excerpt from Earth Angel, out in April from Clash Books. 


THAT SUMMER GOD SPOKE to my little sister. He told her to win the Teen Miss Florida pageant. “Are you sure that’s what He said?” I asked. I was drinking a lot back then and often misinterpreted the Lord’s instructions. She was more or less certain.

Kids from our neighborhood were not in the business of winning beauty pageants. That’s why she needed to break her legs. Or just one leg. One leg would do. The pageant circuit took pity on the injured—little girls on crutches who’d fallen from their horses. It pulled at their heartstrings. Get back in that saddle, etc.

So we took a sledgehammer from dad’s tool shed. I expressed my reservations. About pageants in general. She said, “what’s so wrong with commending great beauty?” I said, “what’s in it for me?” She considered. “You could write a story about it.”

We went out to the backyard and sat on the rusted swing set. Looking at her posture as she sat—an imaginary encyclopedia balanced on her head—I thought she really could win. Perhaps even without being maimed. Why endure the suffering? “That’s what’s most beautiful of all,” she said. Mustn’t one know great suffering to understand great beauty? She was fourteen. There were wisps of fine hair on her knees.

As we stepped out into the wet grass I told her we could still call the whole thing off. She said please sissy and the child looking back at me was Miss Florida. I could see it; sashes and sausage curls and world peace but moreover I could see that God was speaking through her. I was drinking a lot back then. She sat down in the grass and spread her legs apart making one point of a star. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands together in prayer. I raised the sledgehammer above my head.

Originally published in Ligeia Mag, 2020

HERE is a link to pre-order Earth Angel