The Body & The Skin’s Reflection

by Chella Courington

We got a few submissions from writers we deem overqualified for publication in Swim Press, but we want to share their work anyway! We hope you enjoy this small collection of flash fiction.

The Body

To my father’s right stood the body. Dad is left-handed. When he stretched his hand, the body jumped. I used to stay in the body. We would ask Why can’t I have the drumstick? Why? Why? Then the questions stopped. We were nine and eating peach ice cream. Condensed milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, fresh Clanton peaches. Butt numb from sitting on the churn as Daddy cranked, fingers handle-thick. No seconds little fatty. We reached for the ladle. The next thing I saw was the body on the floor. Its cheek red and dry.

In ninth grade the body stole red and yellow missiles from the medicine cabinet and carried them to school. During algebra the body blasted off, watching chalk dust fly around Mrs. Burgoyne, braced in support hose. Glaring at its thighs, she wrote the body up for a dress code violation. Three to four, the clock hand circled in the cafeteria. The body did time. Afterwards, an offensive guard banged it blue under the gym bleachers. The short skirt bunched about the body’s waist.

Thursday I sent the body to Oakland on the 936. It walked into morning light crying, alone. In Guadalupe a man, tall in khakis and a blue blazer, sat next to it, newspaper stretched over lap. Right hand tilted the front page slightly, Debates Rage Over Elk Feeding. Hidden somewhere under the classifieds was the left. Nothing seemed to move except the train, jostling newsprint. The body felt steel wheels knocking at its skin. Its legs flattened by speed, climbing higher, pressing against folds and pubic hair. The body cinched, corsets seemed to push lungs into intestine. Felt medieval plates slip over lotion. The body threw its right arm like a javelin between the seats. Bitch.

Four hard days of rain. I sent the body out for shrimp, warning it not to stop at Judith’s walk-up. Lice love pubic hair. Flinching, the body dug for socks with holes so toes could breathe. Six blocks to Flora’s Fish House, dodging men with fingers for coins. Water washed their scat off the pavement, soaked their rags. Under its purple umbrella the body sighed for a week, dropping acid and fucking in toilets everywhere. It craved motion—another rush of penis bloated and spun dark.

February 20 the body tricked me. It tossed and coughed all night. By morning drenched me in sweat, never saying why. Like a slab of short ribs in Mr. Yeoman’s shop, bone cut through its back. I covered it in layers of blue flannel but the body climbed back on me. I hacked—dry raspy noise. Stuffed my ears with cotton but sound sliced through the fiber, pounding my drums. Buried my head in pillows but the ringing, white keys out of tune covered me. The body was home.

The Skin’s Reflection

He turned to face her, his hair tinted, his body lean from running at least three miles every day. What he wanted to say, he hid, inhaled to the count of four and exhaled the same.

What he did say, “It’s not you. It’s me.”

That was true. He was terrified of growing older. When he turned fifty-five, instead of having a small dinner party with close friends, good food and fine wine, he ran the Solstice 10K race.

Body was becoming more important to him every birthday, and her body, with its sags and creases, reminded him of his own fate. In the mirror he saw arms brittle as kindling. She was the proof he was losing his youth, and he began to idealize the young. Not that the rest of the hemisphere wasn’t caught in the web of tight skin and bouncy butts, but he was a man of extremes. With each year, his yearning for a younger woman increased. He had difficulty not making passes at his daughter’s high school friends. Radiant, innocent, perky and those firm, unmarked bodies.

He knew this obsession was unhealthy, a cliché; yet he could not stop thinking of what it would be like to run his hand across a stomach without moles and stretch marks. Just to feel smoothness again, trace the curve of a moist back with its blush to become a woman. That newness he wanted to taste like an apricot waiting for his teeth to cut the flesh—the juice oozing between his lips, his tongue alive again.

You can find more of Chella’s work on Twitter and Instagram

Cover photo via Pinterest

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