An excerpt from The Pink Institution by Selah Saterstrom – The Feminist Wire

An excerpt from The Pink Institution by Selah Saterstrom



She found it in the corner. She picked it up. Brought it close. This happened at a time when her head was unusually large. She loved games. Two favorites being “Cleaning Out Shoes” and “Feeling Old People’s Skin.” In “Cleaning Out Shoes” she would take a bobby pin and run it through the grooves on the bottoms of people’s shoes, removing and examining minute grit, color of raisins. In “Feeling Old People’s Skin” she would move her hand down the arms of old people with her eyes closed. These were not the same as finding something. She found an eraser. In the corner, a pink beat-up novelty eraser in the shape of a robot based on a cartoon character called “Transformer.” The eraser had been used. She held it between two gummy fingers in front of her large head.


She could see the gray sheen of sensitive recollected pencil in buffered streaks. The robot eraser had many details, just like a real robot would have had. It had robot-style legs and feet and arms and hands. Its head was a robotic nub. Robots had small heads. She found that if she took her finger and gently rubbed the soft gray and used areas, she could remove the pencil from the eraser so that her fingerprints absorbed the shiny graphite. She found this action had the effect of polishing the robot eraser. Shortly thereafter, she decided the eraser was God. After, there was no questioning the divine status of the eraser. She put Him in her pocket and returned to her desk. Everything had changed but at the same time, not.


The eraser was God which meant it was no longer an eraser. She told herself that she did not want to take God’s body with a firm grip and move Him back and forth so that He heated up and created eraser curlicues and sometimes a horrible, dreadful, appalling noise as He was rubbed across another texture so contrary to His own nature. No one ever saw God. She was careful with Him but it seemed remarkable that no one happened to look up and see what they would have perceived to be an eraser. Every day she polished Him with her fingertips. God was achieving a high buff.


She would take God out of her pocket during class in intervals and look at Him. She would also allow herself this privilege when recess began and before it ended. She would go to the bathroom, enter a stall, close the stall’s door, slide the lock in place, take Him out of her pocket, and look at Him.


The longer she was the custodian to God, the more she became aware of his nuances, the robot shapes that formed His little robot body. She began to develop a heightened sensibility about the preciousness of God. He required a particular maintenance. This is why He could not be used in a typical eraser fashion. The enemy of God was paper and looking at God she knew where the vulnerable areas were. God’s head was such an area.


She told herself to leave God’s head alone, but she could not help examining it. The head had suffered a slight severing from the body. A clean incision about halfway through the neck, so if one were not careful it would be easy to remove the head completely. There were various phases with God, and this was the “playing with God’s head phase.”


After His vulnerability exceeded a certain risk level, she could think of nothing else. She wished to be done with her class subjects so she could pull Him out of her pocket and finger His robot head. She would insert her fingertip into the side of the pith that bore the incision and raise the nub slightly. When she did this she could briefly see the inside of God which was pink, much more pink than the outside, and not smooth, but nettled. There was a comforting sensation that accompanied lifting up God’s head. Like letting cool air into a steaming wound, and there was a wholesome clop sound when the head would again land in its proper place. These actions with their comforting sensations were followed by feelings of guilt.


After days of head aggravation, she had gone too far. It was the likely conclusion based on her patterns of behavior. God’s head was hanging by a thread. It was a matter of time or of timing. The important thing was to be present when it happened. After three more days passed it rained, and when it rained the children had recess in the back of the classroom. She did not get up from her desk with the other children at recess time.


She took God out of her pocket. She looked at Him in the palm of her hand. It was going to come off. She knew this. The best thing to do was to put His head in her mouth and eat it. She placed God’s head in her mouth.


God’s head snapped quick. It surprised her. Bearing down on the head with the enamel of her teeth unexpectedly bloated the moment into an ecstatic loose-fitting density. He instantaneously made her tongue go dry, sucking the moisture from the inner sanctum of her mouth. As her teeth initially tested the outer skein of God, there was a subtle bounce. Grinding His head gave way to the grainy innards, like small insubstantial pearls sliding down her throat. She could taste the bitter fingerprints.


She looked at the decapitated body of God. It was ugly. She got up from her desk and walked to the back of the classroom where she originally found God. She kneeled and placed the decapitated robot eraser of God’s body in the corner. She stood up and turned around. She entered the crowd of noisy children and pretended to play.




Selah Saterstrom

Selah Saterstrom is the author of the novels The Pink InstitutionThe Meat and Spirit Plan and the forthcoming, Slab, all published by Coffee House Press. She is also the author of Tiger Goes to the Dogs, a limited edition letterpress project published by Nor By Press. She teacheslectures, and publishes widely and is the Director of Creative Writing at the University of Denver.






“eraser” is an excerpt from the novel, The Pink Institution, by Selah Saterstrom. Published by Coffee House Press (2004).

The Pink Institution