T.L. Crum


It started off with his ring finger. We were at a barbeque, talking mortgage rates between bites of kebab when Richard lifted his hand and we realized his finger was missing. Everyone at the party scoured the lawn, the flowerbeds, the pool. Eventually, the finger was found in the trash—someone had mistaken it for a gnawed and discarded hot dog. “These things happen,” I said as I sewed it back on that night, grateful not only that my awkwardly sewn stitches were hidden by his still shiny wedding band, but also that the host’s cocker spaniel had been locked up for the night. We heard he had a thing for fingers.

A few weeks later, we found Richard’s shoulder underneath his pillow in the bed. He shrugged it off (or half-shrugged) as another coincidence. I took him to the doctor, who prescribed an anti-detaching medicine, but Richard was allergic and swelled up like rising dough. “You should have been inoculated for this when you were a kid,” the doctor said. “But no matter. Chances are it’s already run its course.”

I was relieved at his prognosis, but Richard wasn’t. I’d see him standing back after dinner to check for body parts under the table. He’d pat down his pockets pretending to search for his wallet, only to find that his hips were still there. He’d tap against the front of his shirt where he kept his cell phone, grateful to discover his chest, his ribs.

Two months after the finger fell off, his left foot separated from his leg while he was removing his sneakers for the night. After that, his ear dropped into a bowl of cereal. I bought an industrial pack of thread and needles, but the color was off—his complexion was peachy where the thread was pink, and the zigzag stitching resembled a claw-shaped scar. “I look like Raggedy Ann,” he said. “No,” I said, “these look like war wounds. You’re a warrior.”

He stopped going to work. His boss called, complaining about the spreadsheets that were piling up on Richard’s desk. “It’s just a rough patch,” I said. “He’ll get better.” But I wasn’t so sure anymore. He had stopped touching me, wouldn’t have sex for fear he’d fall off inside me, wouldn’t kiss me for fear I’d swallow his lips. “It’s okay,” I said to him. “I still love you. Don’t you see that?” He nodded, ever so slightly, and then checked his neck, then checked the hands that checked his neck, then checked the arms that raised the hands to his face.

I went back to the doctor, this time alone. “I don’t know what to do. Our marriage is falling apart.” The doctor put his hand to my forehead. “Are you feeling okay?” he said. I asked why. “No reason. Just wait it out. I’m sure you two will see eye to eye again in no time.” I went home, discouraged, and lay down in bed next to Richard’s immobilized body. He grunted to say hello. I stared at the ceiling, wondering what was to become of us, and eventually I fell asleep. I wasn’t sure how long I’d slept, but when I awoke the room was dark. Pitch black. Blacker than black. “Richard?” I said. He grunted beside me. “What time is it?”

I heard the pillowcase rustle underneath his head, and then felt the bed shift ever so slightly. “I think,” he started, and the bed shifted some more. His hands grazed my head, reached under my pillow, and then I felt a pressure behind my eyes, like my brain was being pinched. The world came back into focus. It was still daytime, but the sun was hidden by clouds. The first storm of fall was on its way.

“Your eyes fell out,” he said.

I touched my hands to my face. “Oh,” I said. “I see.”


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