Week #25 – Least favorite

Without Words by Manja Gattner


Skin by Meg Sefton

“This must the least favorite part of your body,” said the manicurist, rubbing a rose scented cream into the woman’s hand. The manicurist’s eyes traveled up to the woman’s neck and rested on her face. “In fact, your whole right side is damaged.” The manicurist gave her some cream to take home.

The manicurist was not exaggerating. On the back of her wrist was a long purple scar where she had surgery to remove a ganglion cyst. It looked like some kind of backwards suicide attempt. There was a puckered white patch on a knuckle where she burned her hand ironing her husband’s shirt on his first day of work. Her pinkie had suffered third degree burns from the hot glue gun when she was helping her son make Gandalf for a Tolkien diorama. There was a slash on her neck where another cyst had been removed. There was a sprinkling of hypopigmentation on the right side of her face, a result of pregnancy that no amount of makeup could hide.

She used the cream. It worked. She looked nothing like herself.

She freaked out. She slashed the back of her wrist and the base of her neck. She burned her knuckle with an iron. She covered her pinkie with hot glue. She dotted her check with household bleach. She took herself to the emergency room and said she had been tortured, and no, she did not know her assailant.

Q. E. D. by Martin Brick

My projections pointed toward Stephanie. She was younger, but females develop sooner. Some of the class had already made the leap. When summer ended girls returned full heads taller than the boys, and with discernible breasts.

Some of the boys developed too. Taller, with specters of deeper voices. These were the boys who took an interest in, or at least fared best with, the developing girls.

So Stephanie seemed feasible. I imagined us hitting puberty together. She was popular enough to warrant attention, yet not so popular as to utterly dismiss me. Academic enough that we might actually talk.

But she went and had a freak growth spurt. Over Thanksgiving she grew three inches and a figure. I honed my diet according to our Know Your Body textbook, but to no avail. Puberty still lingered on the distant horizon, while Kenny scooped Stephanie.

Then I developed The Master Plan: Miss Mandible.

Fact: I was already the “teacher’s pet.” Leverage that favoritism.

Fact: I was already the class pariah. No risk in falling further out of favor.

Fact: According to classmates, Miss Mandible was attractive (with “sweet tits”). Miss = single. No pictures of boyfriends on her desk.

Fact: I did not anticipate puberty until April. By June, as I passed into the next grade, any conflict of interest would disappear.

Fact: She told me, repeatedly, I was too mature for the class. Seemed like a veiled message. And with no one to compete against… Clearly reasonable. It was all there.

Seventh Hour by Catherine Russell

Amid the happy chatter of soon-to-be-free students, the girl wished she were anywhere but there.

The other girls in the locker room compared bra sizes like women compared diamonds, while she hugged her books to her chest. Time stretched before her. After changing into shorts and tee, she joined her classmates amid the red dirt, lined up like the condemned before the firing squad. Each team picked players, but her outcome never varied. Consigned to whatever group chose last and banished to the outfield, she stood, waited, and prayed the ball wouldn’t reach her.

American Birthdays by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Cherry was America’s least favorite pie. Her mother made it every year for her father’s birthday because “daddy doesn’t like cake.” America had to wash the bowls, the wooden spoon, the plates and finally the Pyrex dish. Her brother got to “contribute” by climbing the tree in the yard and picking the cherries.

One year, America complained that it wasn’t fair. Her mother said, “Just be grateful we have a sink you can reach from your chair.”

Another year, America asked for apple pie for her own birthday. Her mother said, “Just be grateful you have friends here” and served chocolate cake with buttercream roses.

Yet another year, America asked why her family had moved to a country that made war on theirs. Her mother said, “Just be grateful you were born here.”

The year before she left for college, America asked if it could have been American weapons that made her be born without legs. Her mother said, “Just be grateful. If we got the visas three months later, you might not have had arms. Six months later, you might not have been born.”

For her first birthday away from home, America tried to make an apple pie, but it burned. She bought red velvet cake instead and told herself she was lucky that she didn’t miss the last accessible bus back from the store.

The Sisyphean table  by Guy Yasko

I see you start with the pickled vegetables. That probably means one of two things: either you like them or you don’t. Are you trying to get them out of the way, to clear your palate for what you prefer, to justify pleasure with suffering? But can you be certain you’ll get to the pleasure? There is a small chance that you will die before reaching what you like. Unlikely, yes, but would you want to go out with an unpleasant taste in your mouth? In any case, a proper host will replenish your supply. Deferment of pleasure then becomes infinite. You fill up on what you dislike, or even if you do like something, you’ll pickle your tongue and you’ll lose your taste for any of the more delicate entrées. And in any case, as a proper guest you’re too polite to say that you don’t like something. Don’t tell me. I know already: it’s all simply wonderful. More wine?

A Private Person by Stella Pierides

I’d dreaded meeting him since I heard his news from an acquaintance.
Now he was standing behind me at the checkout.

Hugging me, he asked the usual questions he always rolls out at school
reunions. I am fine, I answered; I am also fine, he told me; his
company was booming – picking up more clients than he could manage.
Fiddling with his shirt button and looking me in the eye, presumably
not realising I’d heard about his terminal illness,

“I am not coming this year to the class get-together,” he said, “I’m
having my house redecorated.” He cleared his throat, “so much to be
done, I’ve got to be there.”

I nodded, and as we parted, I clasped his hand with a feeling of
relief, and held it longer than I should have.

Licking around the rim by Matt Potter

She pulled the car over to the kerb. And the man in the front passenger seat reached through the window and took the ice cream from the puffy clasp of a fat guy standing on the footpath. He licked around the cone’s rim, smacking his lips – the passenger, not the fat guy – while the driver idled.

It all went like clockwork. Like a perfectly timed drop in a Mafia movie.

I watched this as I waited at the bus stop on Turmstraße. Sure, it was a hot day, but the driver was in the middle of a driving lesson! The car said Fast Fahrschule on its roof.

I dipped my head so I could see the driver. And over my sunglasses, I saw her say something, just as the ice cream began to melt down his hand.

“What, you want some?” he said, in German loud enough for me to hear above the mid-afternoon traffic, licking his hand, tongue dripping white and creamy.

She replied – drowned out by a truck’s exhaust brakes – and he said, between slurps, “What, you want me to starve?”

Meanwhile, the fat guy with the puffy clasp stood on the kerb, waiting. For what, I don’t know. Perhaps a tip.

Perhaps a lick.

The driver turned the car into the traffic, and the fat guy watched them disappear.

I got on the bus, and he watched that disappear too.

After that, I don’t know what he did. Though I’m sure it was something interesting.

Rats by Kim Hutchinson

She stood by the rescued greyhounds at the outdoor market, petting the dogs and talking to the lovely young woman with the beaming smile standing next to her.

“You have to meet someone.” The young woman reached into her jacket. A furry white head with two bright eyes and a pointed nose peeked out. The rat nuzzled against her owner’s sweater and dove back into safety and warmth, leaving only hindquarters and a long tail on display.

“You have the most interesting pets!” she said with sincerity, even though rodents were usually one of her least favorite forms of wildlife.

“She’s a domestic white rat.”

“Two words I’ve never used in a sentence.”

“Domestic and rat?” the young woman laughed.

She liked this young woman. They’d met two weeks earlier, when the young woman had been walking her pet chicken on a pink ribbon leash.

The rat peeked out again. She had to admit, it was cute. And clean. Not what you’d expect.

The young woman told her about the rat’s affectionate nature and intelligence, and how easy it was to litter train. Her husband smiled and punctuated her story with supportive comments.

As she listened, she noticed the glow on the young woman’s face, how happy she and her husband seemed to be. She thought of all the religions and texts and sermons and self-help books in the world, and she wondered if the real message in them might be just to love everything, even the rats.


Back to Wk #24 – Tombstones

Forward to Wk #26 – Bad haircut

2 Responses to “Week #25 – Least favorite

  1. Meg,
    The story freaked me out a bit too, but I could totally relate also. Which worries me. 🙂

    I totally empathize with this boy with his head in the clouds!

    This one made me so sad…

    The ‘pickled tongue’ reference made me chuckle.

    Love the way you put this. Body language says so much more sometimes than our words do.

  2. Matt,
    All the possible double meanings… I’m sure it was interesting too. 🙂

    Love everything, even the rats. The vegan in me approves. 🙂

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