Her finger rests in her lap. The blood nearly coagulated. You should have seen it a moment ago, spilling over her yellow dress, her white loafers. The finger twitching as if it still wanted to do something important, write a sonnet or a symphony.
She takes the finger and puts it in the pot on the stove, boiling it with the others. Once the flesh sloughs off, she takes the white bone and buries it with her toes at the base of the rhododendron by the door. She wears her shoes all the time now, even to bed. It wouldn’t surprise us if she starts wearing gloves.
It’s ghastly to watch her like this, to feel so impotent. Last week, the fica started growing toward the window, and the fern hugged the mantle so tight we feared it might suffocate.
She takes up the butcher knife, hacks away the arm at the elbow. Look at the way she cradles it like a baby in her lap, the water bubbling behind her. The fern thinks she has no idea what she’s doing. That she’ll chop off her parts until there’s nothing left. We believed it until the rhododendron pointed to the bones growing out of her pot. Just a bud at first, but then it started to take shape. That’s what got us really interested.
Her hair has gone white. Her skin so translucent you can see the veins, the blood churning within.
Look. She’s added the arm to the pot. Now, it’s only a matter of time.
Day and night the water hisses and roils, steam rising into the air. Her head rests on the oak chair, her blue eyes open. The hand with the knife, the hand she should have cut off first, takes her head by the snowy hair and drags it to the pot. The fern browns, its leaves curling inward. The rhododendron no longer flowers. Some jobs are too much.
We see the knife on the floor beside the chair and bend toward it, willing ourselves to grow in that direction, but it’s not enough. Oh what we would give to hack off a branch, a root, or even a leaf. Maybe her hand would do it, but it’s too busy dragging her skull across the floor, burying it at the base of the bone plant rising from the roots of the withering rhododendron. It’s only when the hand lopes back to the pot that we understand.
The bone plant rises. We see her downcast face, can almost imagine her blue eyes set in the white-bone as she looks about. And we know all too well what will follow when she realizes that form is still rooted in the same place.
Peter Grandbois is the author of The Gravedigger, The Arsenic Lobster: A Hybrid Memoir, and the forthcoming novel, Nahoonkara. His short stories have appeared in journals such as: Boulevard, The Mississippi Review, Post Road, New Orleans Review, and Gargoyle. He teaches at Denison University in Ohio and can be reached at www.brothersgrandbois.com.