Originally published in PULP Literature.

Editor's Pick for 2015 Hummingbird Prize.

Chipping

 

He leaned over the dining table and snapped off my pinkie finger. It made a clinking sound when it fell on my plate, glass-on-glass, before he pocketed it. I had asked him again to give an opinion on a change of wallpaper. His eyes were on the laptop on the dining table in between us, a movie. I watched him instead, looking over the cracks in his face, his shattered clavicle, the missing lip. I didn't take a piece of him back, and just left my hand out for the salt. He passed it over and I fumbled it– different without a pinkie, I guess.

He kept a little icepick with him for the tougher conversations, one of Russian make, from his mother. When I asked him about his day, I chipped off a slice of shoulder, since he wouldn't face me. kck kck kck went the metal spike I got from a smoke-worn auntie. I asked again, and he said work was fine. It was never fine in his entire career, and lately it was always fine. Secrets are always fine, auntie told me when I was five, hiding cookies. When I challenged him, he knocked off the tip of my nose with his little pick. kck kck kck I had no ears, less of both thighs, half a right foot, only one breast. The cracks in me were endless tributaries to no rivers, and every half-fake pocket on my jeans upstairs were filled with dust– all of him that I took back. 

I turned off the movie and his brow furrowed. We need to talk, I said. kck kck kck off all the pieces go, and I am without an elbow and a cheek, all tucked into his breast pocket.