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"Metacarpal", excerpt

Friday 11/29/19

“Did you know your sister was going to die?” Haylee asked, the first night, when they both slept in Haylee’s bed, under a single sheet.

“I did when she still couldn’t breathe after my dad cut the hole.”

Her voice sounded dry in her own head. Like it was textured with leaves.

“Do you chew everything extra now?”

Haylee didn’t know a lot about decorum. Frances didn’t care. She pressed her body against her friend, hoping she’d feel an arm come across her shoulder, side, chest, without having to ask. It was better when you did not have to ask.

“We weren’t eating. My dad used a steak knife. It was closest. We were just watching TV.”

“I like how the family room is next to the kitchen at your house. Are you scared of him now?”


She reached down and she put her hand over the hole, over the throat. It felt like when she put her palm flat atop the nozzle of the garden hose. She and Sheila liked to spray each other that way. You got the other person wet, but not so much wet that you both got in trouble. The hole was not where it should have been. Frances kept her hand there, placed a second hand against the first, pressed harder. Her mother pulled at her father, kept pulling, and he hit her to make her go away, to give him room, but Frances would not remove her hands. She was ready to be hit if her father did not understand. Sheila’s eyes batted. Like she was nervous. She did that when she was nervous. She was starting to like boys. She was the first to like them. She was a couple years older. Frances had been noticing the batting. The eyes batted at her. Then they stopped. She kept her hands where they were just in case they batted again. She took them away, and already the hole looked like it was starting to dry.

Frances felt the arm come over her shoulder, her side, her chest, the fingers of a hand thread through fingers of her own, nestling, as a bundle, like a bird with its wings tucked in, between her breasts, which she first noticed that summer, the summer her sister left. Her mother cried with her entire body. People think that crying is an act of the head, with the eyes leading the way, followed by the nose. But hardly anyone cries without their hands. The hands go to the head, they daub at it, they tear, as the case may be, to calm the fracas, restore facial order, like that might put the rest of a person right. The chest right. The throat right. One cries with the throat above all, which is why we cannot speak.


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