Stories of the Body
To my father’s right stood the body. Dad is left-handed. When he stretched his hand, the body jumped. I used to stay in the body. We would ask Why can’t I have the drumstick? Why? Why? Then the questions stopped. We were nine and eating peach ice cream. Condensed milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, fresh Clanton peaches. Butt numb from sitting on the churn as Daddy cranked, fingers handle-thick. No seconds little fatty. We reached for the ladle. The next thing I saw was the body on the floor. Its cheek red and dry.
In ninth grade the body stole red and yellow missiles from the medicine cabinet and carried them to school. During algebra the body blasted off, watching chalk dust fly around Mrs. Burgoyne, braced in support hose. Glaring at its thighs, she wrote the body up for a dress code violation. Three to four, the clock hand circled in the cafeteria. The body did time. Afterwards, an offensive guard banged it blue under the gym bleachers. The short skirt bunched about the body’s waist.
Thursday I sent the body to Oakland on the 936. It walked into morning light crying, alone. In Guadalupe a man, tall in khakis and a blue blazer, sat next to it, newspaper stretched over lap. Right hand tilted the front page slightly, Debates Rage Over Elk Feeding. Hidden somewhere under the classifieds was the left. Nothing seemed to move except the train, jostling newsprint. The body felt steel wheels knocking at its skin. Its legs flattened by speed, climbing higher, pressing against folds and pubic hair. The body cinched, corsets seemed to push lungs into intestine. Felt medieval plates slip over lotion. The body threw its right arm like a javelin between the seats. Bitch.
Four hard days of rain. I sent the body out for shrimp, warning it not to stop at Judith’s walk-up. Lice love pubic hair. Flinching, the body dug for socks with holes so toes could breathe. Six blocks to Flora’s Fish House, dodging men with fingers for coins. Water washed their scat off the pavement, soaked their rags. Under its purple umbrella the body sighed for a week, dropping acid and fucking in toilets everywhere. It craved motion—another rush of penis bloated and spun dark.
February 20 the body tricked me. It tossed and coughed all night. By morning drenched me in sweat, never saying why. Like a slab of short ribs in Mr. Yeoman’s shop, bone cut through its back. I covered it in layers of blue flannel but the body climbed back on me. I hacked—dry raspy noise. Stuffed my ears with cotton but sound sliced through the fiber, pounding my drums. Buried my head in pillows but the ringing, white keys out of tune covered me. The body was home.
Chella Courington is a writer and teacher whose poems and stories appear in numerous anthologies and journals including Spillway, The Collagist, and The Los Angeles Review. Her novella, Adele and Tom: The Portrait of a Marriage, is forthcoming from Breaking Rules Publishing. Originally from the Appalachian South, Courington lives in Santa Barbara, CA, with another writer. <chellacourington.net>.
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