Beneath the Skin


Beth Konkoski

She peeled an orange and found an avocado, the sort of week it had been.  The feel of buttery green on her tongue failed to be what she needed as she ate it.  Between trips to the cleaners, the library, the morgue, she held her hands steady on the wheel— the grip of an adult, certain and not trembling, her gaze definitely not looking left at the swish of angels, their wings like a coat of rain across the grass. 

 

In the driveway, her phone growled its string of small curses, and she took deep breaths before going in to fill the muffin tins with batter, organic blueberries, her tears.   For years there had been somewhere else to drive, someone else to taxi, someplace else to be, until there wasn’t.  Now the vacuum carved its licorice lines along the carpet, and she refused to move the cushions or look beneath the couch, afraid of what might have worked its way there to lie forever, to speak a silent lie—family.  Some small barrette or the game socks from soccer season that had gone missing weeks before, these were risks she could not take.  By afternoon she was dustbowl empty.  She thought up other errands to run.  In the garage, no end it seemed to jump ropes and scooters, a whale sprinkler she could picture as it spun its lazy circle on the lawn.

 

She thought she might siphon such wreckage forever, or at least until daylight passed and she could pretend to sleep.   It felt necessary to find objects that took up space, fill in the space where air refused to stay when she shook out leaf bags and tried to line them up.

 

“That’s a lot of trash,” her husband said meaning the eleven bags she had deposited on the curb.  She did not answer.  A square aluminum pan had come out of the oven; peeling back the foil, she uncovered macaroni and cheese.  It might have been anything they gathered on the shiny tines of their forks and moved toward their mouths.  They ate because he was home from work and she had put utensils down on placemats.  In bed when clocks reported it was time, she lay still as lists pushed their way up like new mountains, a continent, she hoped, of details.  She could feel the slow breaths beside her, a game of sleep they might play all night.   Hours later, she moved toward him with moonlight and darkness in slats across the bed.  On his skull, skin met hair in a smoothed edge, like the orange of her morning. Somewhere along this expanse, it might be possible to break through and slide her fingers beneath the careful surface.   When he remained still despite her touch, she dug her nails in and peeled away the rind of silence and blame that covered his face.  He was hollow where the heat of him should have been.  Time and their grief had ripened only to this husk she could sweep away without effort.

 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Beth Konkoski is a writer and high school English teacher living in Northern Virginia.  Her fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, including: Story, Mid-American Review, The Baltimore Review and New Delta Review.  Her chapbook of poetry Noticing the Splash was published by BoneWorld Press in 2010.  She has work forthcoming in Gargoyle, Chagrin River Review and Saranac Review.