Only a Skeleton by Stephanie Devine
As I breastfeed the baby, he catches me in his fish-eye stare. I’m drinking iced coffee, and condensation has gathered on the glass. Beads of water fall onto his forehead. The baby pulls back and I flinch, expecting a knife-sharp whine, but he only pauses, then smiles. I jiggle the glass, and the ice clinks. Several more droplets fall like rain. He watches with fascination, then grows bored and turns again to latch on, his eyes fluttering shut.
Why Not Eraser?
I think to myself: my nipples are as red and rubbery as the erasers of No. 2 pencils. See how they peel? And just as I think it, a dimpled hand has plucked one from my chest and is using it to erase something I’ve written. Not much, just a slip of paper, a mere scrawl, but I stand transfixed as my words are rubbed out, my body dissolving into pink dust, until the baby moves to put the eraser in his mouth, and I remember it’s a choking hazard.
Thick as Down
I wake to quiet, stillness thick as down, the blackout curtains drawn, the baby, the very fact of him, like a distant memory. Is it morning or night? I check my phone and discover, with a pang, that hours have passed. I come to the door of the nursery and grip the handle tightly, easing it open. I move slowly, silently, with real effort, and lean over the side of the crib. The baby stares back, blankly.
I unzip my body, strip off my skin, and hang it over the back of a chair. Run out the door as innards, head straight down the stairs, organs spilling, bones clacking, into the wet grass. Who cares if it’s raining? I leap and cartwheel and toss aside my entrails until I’m just a skeleton, only a skeleton, running down the street.
In the Shower
The walls of the shower are tile, and, in the swirls and marbling, I can make out the lines of faces. Each one in profile: A queen, a devil, a little boy. Once a face emerges, I cannot help but see it. Worse, the patterns repeat, so that every time I wash my feet or rinse my hair, no matter whether I turn this way or that, I am always coming eye to eye with one, always turning my back on another.
Things a Skeleton Might Say
Why are you so afraid of me?
Why won’t you come near?
Is it because you can see right through me?
Is it because I’m empty inside?
Stephanie Devine’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Fugue, Gone Lawn, Nano, Louisiana Literature, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, The Austin Review, Joyland, Pembroke Magazine, Cheap Pop, Atticus Review, Fiction Southeast, Treehouse, and Glassworks Magazine. Born in Pittsburgh, she now lives in Atlanta with her husband and son.