A Secret Hum of Blades
Kara likes woodworking best, the rough texture of lumber between her
hands made gleaming, made smooth. She likes it best among the practical
arts she's made to take in seventh grade, a space apart from her
friends who prefer home economics, the threading of needles, girls
orbiting around a table where they spread pin cushions, fabrics, gossip
about other girls. Kara knows how to sew a pillowcase, knows to bind
the edges tight, flip the fabric inside out. But the chatter across the
table feels louder, so much more raucous than the deafening hum of
machinery, of buzz saws, of blades. Inside the shop room, Kara
disappears inside the gentle drone of drills and bandsaws and sanders.
She cuts the shapes of what will become a working mantel clock, binds
them together, sands them smooth to finished. When the teacher isn't
looking, she slices scrapwood into clovers and birds, to place in her
pockets and set on her nightstand, objects to hold in her gaze until
she falls asleep.
At recess, Kara can skyrocket the red rubber kickball over outfielders'
heads, can round all the bases in one adrenaline-burst of movement
while the boys run after the ball, scramble back toward the chain-link
fence, throw heavily to home plate after her Keds have already dashed
across. Her body still burns with the restless itch of motion when she
sits back at her desk, face as flushed as when she shoots hoops with
her father in the backyard after dusk, until her friend Julie tells her
in the girls' room that she'll never get a boyfriend that way, that
Tommy Dierdorf was in the outfield and he didn't look happy. Sometimes
boys like to win, like to know they could protect you, Julie says.
Julie, who has already given blow jobs, who steals red lipstick from
drugstores so boys will remember the ring of her mouth.
At dusk, Kara pulls a ball from the basement and shoots at the basket
above the garage, alone, the music through her headphones as calming as
the white noise of bandsaws. Since the start of the school year the
evenings have grown shorter, crisper. The light disappears quickly
beyond the house, over a backyard of trees, and the only trace of the
sun, a fading pink swirl behind the silhouettes of oaks. As Kara
dribbles the basketball, she feels the grating lattice of wooden edges
against her leg, a star she carved in shop class and tucked in her
pocket. She touches the rough contours of her pocket, some solitary
secret that now only irritates the skin of her thighs as she pulls her
hands back to the ball, holds the basket rim in her gaze, lets her
Anne Valente is an MFA candidate at Bowling Green. She has stories in or coming from Unsaid,
Annalemma, Keyhole, JMWW and others.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201009blades.htm
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of Barbara Gilhooly.
w i g · l e a F