A Secret Hum of Blades
Anne Valente

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 palms release.

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               09-24-10                                [home]