First, cut off the head. Then arms below elbows, legs below knees. They are reminiscent, the knees. A joint and bone day when a little girl, fallen, tried to catch you.
You had stolen her doll of porcelain out of humor or spite or desire of chase and bloody knee skin and tears when you picked pebbles from her wounds above white knee socks pushed down
to thin, pink ankles.
It was shrill, her crying.
You set the doll in her arms folded against chest and thighs where you left your hand. She kissed you on the cheek. Her braids were red-orange crisscrosses. Her freckles, autumn fade.
And she told you she loved you, then, and would always love you, no matter how long it would take so you kissed her, this time, on the mouth and imagined her body full with your come and purpose. You laughed at your words, come and purpose, but did not say them out loud. She would not understand. She might run away.
Forward, ten years or so.
When your words are still silent and the girl knows how to break you now. You tell yourself
the breaking is not so terrible because you have learned the art of truncation.
It is a gradual form, painstaking.
Sometimes, it is her finger nervous and tapping at too long stories. Sometimes, her feet when she tells you how easy it would be to walk away. Then her arms, disappeared. Really. Evaporated. When she embraces a friend who might be her lover. And when you have whittled her, torsoed, nub thighs and neck, a girl-woman base, you push inside and fill her, make her useful for sitting on couches and shelves. Behind glass. Against ecru walls where family and friends can view her
Look, you say, see how beautiful she is? How bountiful?
They nod and smile, sip Chardonnay, gesture to the girl-woman, the bloated trunk in flesh and repose. A living art.
Rae Bryant’s short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, released from Patasola Press, NY, in June 2011 and has been nominated for the 2012 Pen Hemingway and Pushcart awards. Her stories have appeared or are soon forthcoming in StoryQuarterly, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, BLIP Magazine (formerly Mississippi Review), Gargoyle Magazine, Opium Magazine, and PANK, among other publications and have been nominated and short-listed for a few awards. She teaches multimedia and creative writing in the JHU graduate writing program and is the editor in chief of the new JHU, M.A. in Writing literary and arts journal, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review.