Piece Meal

Our friend Lucy stockpiles people. She introduces them to my husband and I at her dinner parties by announcing a name then lowering her voice to just above a whisper. If I were to compile a list it might look like this:

Patsy ...is partially blind.

Stan's ...got the gout.

Will ...lost his eye in a childhood accident.

Marilyn's ...shoulder is the result of a surgical procedure gone wrong.

Trina ...has a sensitive stomach.

Bertha ...suffers from foot drop.

Martin ...won't say how he lost those three fingers.

Tita's ...rash comes and goes.

Katherine ...limps a little.

Sue ...has that nose.

Jason ...wears high collars to hide the scars.

Barry ...lost the right leg to gangrene.

Sal's okay ...but her sister's not.

After our evenings at Lucy's we go home and I strip off my clothes. I stand in front of the full length mirror mounted on the back of the bedroom door. My husband goes into the bathroom to brush his teeth and floss. He has beautiful teeth and thick gunmetal gray hair flecked with white. His shoulders are still broad. His back ripples with the muscles he hones on the Nautilus machines at the gym. His skin is summer-sailing tan.

My small frame is no longer lean. Each year another layer sneaks on. My reflection reveals a marbled body suit tightly wedged under my skin. The backs of my thighs are dimpled, my belly is a roll indented at the center where my navel sits, but somehow the proportions are right. Everything still adds up to a whole. My self looks back at me. She's smiling, then her smile begins to turn.

Over the rush of running water, my husband calls to me from the bathroom, "What the hell are you doing?"

I don't answer. I'm too busy looking for:

...a dowager's hump,

...a hammer toe,

...a malignant mole...

About the author:

Joan Wilking's short fiction has been published previously in The Atlantic, Other Voices, The Barcelona Review, The Mississippi Review, Parting Gifts, The MacGuffin and many other literary journals including Pineldyboz. One of her short stories appears in Politically Inspired edited by Stephen Elliott and published by MacAdam/Cage. A portion of the proceeds from the book go to Oxfam to provide aid to Iraqi children.