This story is a definite departure from my usual: not set in Yorkshire, first person and real damn short. Shortest story I’ve ever written. As always, feedback is welcome!
I freaking hate locker rooms. But where else am I supposed to go? There’s an abattoir in Farmer City. But I can’t, like, bike twenty miles to Famer City. And what would I say: “hey, nice slaughter house—mind if I use it?” Unlikely.
An adequate drain is crucial and this is the best place I could think of. Call it lack of imagination. Maybe I crave familiarity. Maybe I like to punish myself. Who am I kidding? I so like to punish myself.
The school is dark and quiet after hours. Creepy. It shouldn’t be really. Not to me. What’ve I got to be scared of? Bet we’re hard-wired to find silent darkness unsettling. Evolution and crap. Survival of the scaredest. See, I pay attention in Bio.
Anyway. Time’s wasting. I look around.
“You’re alone, stupid.”
Force of habit. Girls strip off while covering up. Hide behind towels, sweaters, locker doors trying not to notice each other. Like we can help noticing. Comparing. I don’t compare well. Yet.
I peel my clothes off. I’m sweating so bad everything sticks. I take the picture, the bottle, and Michelangelo to the shower stall. No cubicles obviously. Health and safety! God forbid teenage girls get privacy. But boy howdy I got drainage. I’m all about adequate drainage.
The girl in the picture looks like a bitch. But there’s no mirror in the showers. Obviously. So picture bitch is my point of reference. Every sculptor needs a model, right? I set the bottle down, blue tack picture bitch to the chipped tile surround of the shower stall and pick up Michelangelo. My tool. My muse. Or am I his?
My art teacher once said Michelangelo, started with a big, shapeless slab of marble. Bit by bit he chipped away the excess until tadah: David. Really, that’s all I’m trying to do. Make me a David. Be like Michelangelo. I should have a wristband: “WWMD?”
I first wanted to use Mom’s fabric scissors. Number of times I’ve watched her cut patterns to make something new. Thick concentric lines on wispy thin paper indicating different sizes. That’s what I’m doing really. Cutting a new pattern. Resizing. Mom would totally kill me if I used her sewing scissors for this. I’m not fabric.
I take up the knife/chisel I call Michelangelo and look down at the marbled slab of me. Yesterday was legs. Night before that belly and butt. Tonight’s all about arms.
I don’t think anyone’s noticed yet. But that’s the point. I could do this all at once. Get it over with. If only! Dramatic, overnight change wouldn’t go unnoticed. Mom would notice. She would freak. Freak at her daughter the freak.
So I play the long game. Small changes. Piece at a time.
Right arm first. Like painting your nails. You’re meant to start by using your off-hand. No idea why. I make a fist and shake, letting the flab settle. Man that’s gross.
Not for long.
I look at picture bitch. Perfectly shaped arms flop in a lazy cross over her blonde head. I angle the carving knife at my elbow and work down.
Michelangelo might be my muse but when I’m working I can’t think of myself as a sculptor. I pretend I’m shaving. Because that’s what it is really. Shaving off pieces of me. Can’t say it doesn’t hurt like hell though. Cause it does. But not for long.
By the time the knife carves out the curve of my armpit I’m already healing. Severed halves of upper-arm puppy fat wriggle and struggle to reunite. My flesh meets in desperate wrinkles like plastic wrap that just has to cling to itself. But there is less of it now. Less flesh. Less fat. Less clinging to me.
Lots of blood though. Hence the need for drainage. Hey! I used the word “hence” in a sentence. Thanks English teacher! I have to sit down though. Just til the throbbing stops which doesn’t take long. I heal fast. Obviously.
Meanwhile: bottle time. I unscrew the safety cap on the acid. Beside the enormous drain hole of the shower stall lies the triangular chunk of my discarded, disconnected flesh. I half expect it to flop like a fish out of water. But it doesn’t. It just lies there. I dribble acid carefully over the ex-piece of my arm which hisses then bubbles. The acid gobbles up my tasty arm fat before trickling down the drain.
I wonder, not for the first time, if somewhere in the bowels of Greenup County is a sewage monster made of my cast-off flesh. As quickly as I heal it would not surprise me. What if it comes looking for me someday? A great, white whale of sewage waste. Moby Dick seeking Ahab. I really don’t want to be Ahab. We read it in lit class. It doesn’t end well for him.
Throbbing subsides and I work my left arm now. It’s not like ear piercing: do one and it hurts so freaking bad you can’t face the second. This is more like: one down so what’s the diff? I’m used to it and I try to see the bigger picture. Or should I say the smaller picture?
Smaller picture of myself. Concentric circles of me. Cutting out my pattern. Paring me down. Piece at a time.
But I will heal. I heal fast. Freak-sician freaking heal thyself.