This morning, I am thinking of Uncle Nelson. His last name is Blossom. He had his stomach stapled for health reasons, and for love I suspect, though he never said so. Hopeful, that with his slim new body he’d turn someone’s head, someone to be with him down the stretch. A wife perhaps. Or a POSSLQ if marriage wasn’t in his stars. He loves to say the word POSSLQ with a French accent. It is just an acronym, though, and not French. Bees love blossoms, right? he’d say, elbowing me. Yeah, I get it. Eleven years later, he is still single at 56. How can you be a blossom and be alone? My breakfast was never so sad. I unscrew my English muffin, two lids that open into nothing.
Calmly, explaining how he’ll rebreak my finger to fix my finger because it set crookedly, the orthopedist presses down on my knuckles, fans out my fingers and considers my hand thoughtfully. When we’d clip the chicken’s wings so they wouldn’t fly away, we’d hold the wing, fan out the feathers, and snip, snip, snip. I’m thinking my hand looks like a chicken wing. My mother is sitting behind him in a tiny red chair meant really for children. She has her hand over her mouth and is crying. I am 10. Five more than the number of fingers on my hand.
So down in the arena, these three rodeo guys rush out and begin pushing—no, more like stomping—their feet against the chest of this collapsed horse. It shot right out of the gate, out of its mind with some kind of horse rage, and drove itself head first into the wall … and just crumbled. She’s hitting her chest with her fist, trying to describe to me the sound their boot-thuds made as they worked to drive a heartbeat through the lumber of its ribs, and how the clown removed his hat, looked down into the dirt … how when she looked out into the bleachers across the arena she saw the small red o’s of children’s mouths laughing because they thought it was part of the show. My friend swears this happened. I am skeptical so I call a vet. “CPR is possible I suppose, but the force it would take to compress the ribs. Probably just break the horse’s ribs.” I learn a horse has both true and false ribs – but 36 in all. Coincidentally my age. Of those 36, I think I have true and false years.
And what of Lucinda’s skin? As she puts my hand on the scar where her breast was, I am thrown, feel a little sick to my stomach because I am thinking the scar tissue is smoother, more silky beautiful than her other skin. I am 40. Six more than she would live to be.
Keith Woodruff has a Masters in poetry from Purdue U’s creative writing program. He lives in Akron, Ohio with his wife Michelle and son Whitman, and works from home for a virtual marketing company. His work has appeared in Poetry East, American Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Quarter After Eight, The Journal, Wigleaf and is forthcoming in Juked. Recently, his prose poem Summer was selected by Amy Hempel to appear in the Best Small Fictions 2017 anthology, and his short short “Elegy” received a 2018 Pushcart Prize.