Has She Gone Too Far This Time?
by Ander Monson, Finalist for the 2004 Just Desserts Short-Short Fiction Contest
Though the doctor said that the bone—the metatarsal whateverness—would begin to mend itself in time, that the best thing for the break was ice and elevation, the lack of motion, and no more crying, and certainly not even a thought of golf, it seemed suspect, at best, to me. My wife agrees, I think. Knock Knock. What fixes itself? Nothing. Well there you are. And the more I thought about it as I laid in bed, as I laid out on the bed, as the bed spread itself below me like a patient etherized against a gable, the bedspread and the fitted sheets that I have for so long tried to cast off, much to my wife’s constant consternation, the more I thought I’d have to do the thing myself, convince the bone to heal. I tried, in order of my increasingly-sophisticated thinking about the problem, 1> exhorting counting sheep to bring me back to sleep where I could dream the skin to knit, the blood to scab, and the whiteness of the bone back into shape; 2> looking carefully at photos of people whom I do not know (my wife brings them home, just goes to Walgreen’s or wherever the shopping takes her, and asks for the photos of say the Smiths, a common name; you’d be surprised, she tells me, how easy it is to pick up and pay for someone else’s pictures, to take them home and make them yours, to add their family’s exploits to your Book of Lovely Memories)—my thinking was that by looking at all these healthy bodies, all these clumps of hair and breast and retina, that somehow I’d model the correct shape and angle for my own sadly bruised and swollen toe and shame it back to health; 3> counting (again) the birds who roost across the street from me—as if through my attention to the exterior world that some small god would reward me for my consistent sacrifice and appreciation of his design; 4> variously-scented incense and candles I had accumulated through many birthdays (for I am evidently not an easy man to shop for, and quite possible somewhat effeminate, judging from the bags from Bath & Body Works, the blackberry aromatherapy votive sets, the bath salts and rich, indulgent creams that I’ve received and that I’ve stockpiled in the bathroom cabinet, much to wife’s distaste—I think she steals them from me sometimes; just the last week before the break and skeletal separation, I caught her reeking of one of my wisterias), burning them slowly down while thinking—isn’t this inevitable—of my own mother, dead and gone but maybe still around: would she do what she could to ease my suffering, since I had never broken anything before, even when I was young and nuts and something of a vandal; 5> dialing random numbers on the phone (blocking out the caller ID option on the other side with star-whatever; I’ve since forgotten in my pain-filled stupor) and asking in a quiet voice to speak to Lisa (I don’t recall my rationale for this, except that in my younger years, I was obsessed with a Lisa before I met my wife, and even once after I met the woman who was bound for (and to) me, I danced with Lisa—weirdly back in town just for the weekend, I took it as a meaningful coincidence, an indication of some cosmic grace—at my wedding reception while my wife was drinking with her friends); 6> doing searches on the Internet for words that start with bone: bonepony, bonesaw, bonedrill, bone-mend, bone-dry, bone tired, and so on, and you’d be surprised how well that worked: my skin felt stronger and more supple, the constant throbbing slowed a bit, my Vicodin-induced haze lifted like the morning’s useless and receding fog, my wife became again more audible to me at night when she spoke out loud (apparently in one of her dreams), and my need for alcohol faded for a time; 7> carving safari figurines out of my wife’s soap (she does go through a lot of it—she’s very clean if nuts and little else, though we are very clear about whose soap and aromatherapy items are whose; it’s important to keep this kind of thing straight to make your marriage work) that I stood on the nightstand in clusters, as if around an exposed wad of salt or pool of water, to protect me while I slept and dreamt of rituals of healing; and, 8> leaving her alone in the town in which we lived, taking the car and all my ties, and leaving her my hundred pairs of slacks—and this final item seemed to work, as if it was her and her habits keeping me from being fit and fully mobile, though in the new town in which I live and walk around with my new working bones (very similar to the last town where my wife thinks of me at night, I’m sure, and cries and cleans her lovely self, wonders where I could have gone, considering my injury and the accumulation of our life together, and you know it’s true—I call her sometimes in the night using star-whatever then hang up when I feel that she’s been punished for her menagerie of tiny crimes) I still feel in some ways the same—as if a crippling injury is just around the corner, leaving Ames, Iowa, at 60 miles an hour at 5 p.m. exactly, whereas I leave Cedar Falls, which is 70 miles away or less, at 5:15 p.m. traveling at 2 miles an hour towards the hand of god or of my wife, one of my many angry children, or of whomever. At what point do we collide, and do you think that I survive the wreck?
Ander Monson is the author of a host of paraphernalia including a decoder wheel, several chapbooks and limited edition letterpress collaborations, the website otherelectricities.com, and five books, most recently The Available World (poetry, Sarabande, 2010) and Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir (nonfiction, Graywolf, 2010). He lives and teaches in Tucson, Arizona, where he edits the magazine DIAGRAM and the New Michigan Press.