Gwen had always been a hand-holder. She'd do it like babies do, strong grips on fingers and wouldn't let go. Gwen knew that the ring wasn't going to come, but she just kept holding onto Russ. Calling the office, doing her hair up for bed and wearing pink lace. It wasn't until she found the lipstick on Russ's boxers that she lost her ring finger. She searched the laundry basket but couldn't find the finger in the pockets of his jeans and the folds of his work shirts. When she showed Russ what had happened, he asked for two more scoops of sugar in his lemonade. "Pile it on thick," he said.
Over time, more and more of Gwen's fingers wound up missing. Down the drain of the tub, back behind the bookshelf, and in the produce section of the grocery store. Russ was "gone at the office or on business," he said when he called to "check in."
"But I'm falling apart," Gwen said while he commented on the bad connection he believed they had.
"I'm hanging up now," Russ said. Gwen felt her left thumb loosen.
After all of her fingers were gone, other parts started to disappear. Her arm under the sink and her foot in her shoe. Afternoons later, Russ showed to "get some things" he said as he placed his briefcase beside her torso next to the door. "Have you seen my tie?" he asked. "The one with the blue stripes." Gwen hadn't had a mouth for some time now, so there was nothing for her to say. She imagined her absent fingers bending tight around his knuckles, her departed thighs rocking his body to sleep. "I'm late," he said behind the closing door.
Once her body had fully left her, Gwen's essence was free to up and stretch and attach itself to a particle of dust which by blowing and luck brought her to Russ's office in time for lunch. She held tight to a strand of his hair. "I had a craving for Chinese," the long-legged woman said while she ate and ate. Gwen sneezed on the woman's broccoli. Before reaching for salt, the woman placed her hand on Russ's. Gwen tugged hard on the strand of hair. Russ exhaled and lifted his hand from the woman's in order to scratch his forehead. Much later, at the hotel, while the woman showered, Gwen climbed in and up through Russ's ears and into his mind while he dreampt.
There, in Russ's attic, she found stacks and piles of women's parts on racks and cabinets, stashed away there in between his skull. She scoured the place for pieces he seemed to like, the limbs he'd stored and wrapped carefully in closets he'd left unlocked and faces so beautiful he'd had them framed. It didn't take her long to have a good working body again. It wasn't unlike shopping on rainy Sundays, after a break-up or blow-out, and this seemed to be for free.
The hand was in a box full of fingers with painted nails, graceful palms and wrists. Slender and long fingers, and then a tempting hand that would, she thought, surely shine with a ring. She walked with her new legs, which were secondary to the discovery of such a heavy hand, to the very back of Russ's eyes to show him how she'd turned it into a fist.
About the author:
Jennifer Cande is founding co-editor of Quick Fiction (www.jppress.org), and her work is forthcoming in Sudden Stories: A Mammoth Anthology of Miniscule Fiction (Mammoth Books '03).