by Lucas Leery
Everyone needs a place to hide. My little brother’s was tucked beneath the attic eaves in the cotton-candy darkness where the floorboards end. He would crawl through the wall hatch, strip naked and bury himself in fiberglass insulation. My mother and I would find him hours later, shivering in the hallway, raw from scratching. “Oh, Sweetie,” my mother would sigh. Her sorrow was real. She would put him in an oatmeal bath and scrub him with those mesh bags lemons and tangerines come in, her hands making gentle spirals of suds across his back. I always thought that must make it worth it. Those baths, so intimate and clean.
When he was five years old he developed a cough. “Microabrasions,” the doctor explained. Her light in my brother’s mouth was like a searchlight on Mars.
Imagine unseeable shards, wispy strands so scathingly sharp they feel, at first, like floating in clouds. Imagine them in your lungs, caught in your throat, cleaving your air. It’s a tickle until you cough. Until you heave and gag to scratch that itch.
“Nothing happens all at once,” she said as gentle blades swirled like fire in my brother’s lungs and ten thousand tiny infections spread.
Everyone needs a place to hide. After my brother, my mother’s was the attic too, a different darkness found hung from the collar ties.
Me? Mine is more distant but its darkness no less sound, its torments no more seeable than the cloudlike loathing, the blades of fear and regret that spiral round and round, cutting me shard by beautiful shard.
Lucas Leery is an educator at a maritime history museum in Maine. He likes noisy guitars, unhinged sentimentalities, and waves of many colors. Some of his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Inklette, Mad Scientist Journal, and Fterota Logia.