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UNTELLING SUZIE by Julie Martis

There is my daughter. She is my daughter. Or maybe she’s my granddaughter. Yes, she is my granddaughter. I know she is my granddaughter because she is wearing a lizard-skin and I know that my daughter does not like reptiles. The coat is so bright I can see my reflection in it. My face breaks into thousands of little pieces and perhaps I am staring at a mirror while it smashes.  This could be the moment of impact. I know I still know what the BlueBottles say. They come with tiny, round, hard somethings and they pop them into my mouth like men throwing darts. It’s my daughter after all. I know it is my daughter because she says:

 

Hello, mum.

 

How are you feeling?

 

Feeling like ornaments people keep polishing. Scrubbing all the colours away. Soon they will be hard and smooth and white and silent. The BlueBottles are scraping away my past like a crime scene so I tell the pale woman so she can stop them. Everything is hot rice. They keep switching when I look away. I asked one how her sister was and she told me her sister died, but I know she is alive because yesterday or today or last week she said:

 

Sorry I was late.

 

My sister borrowed my car.

 

I think I have spoken the words myself. I think I have because the tall, pale woman who is wearing the strange coat scrunches her eyes together. Makes them into tiny fists. I am afraid she will hurt me with these fists. I’m afraid her eyes will break out of her face and fire towards me like bullets or I’ll be in a boxing match but I can’t move: my hands keep wobbling-gobbling and I don’t know if they are warming themselves like runners before a race, up and down. They are waiting to scaroosh me and I don’t like PaleFace’s reptile-coat and I don’t like her fist-eyes and I start to cry and it sounds like:

 

Heeeeeeuuuuuuuurchaaaaaaachooooo.

 

 

PaleFace does not like this. Not one bit. I can see my cheeks in her coat and so I know that the FistEyes have not scarooshed me quite yet.  If you break the BlueBottles open, if you pry them apart with something metal and expose their little hinges I know that there would be nothing inside. You would be able to touch the back of their skin and curve it with your fingertips like soft dough. You could punch through, and they wouldn’t know: they wouldn’t feel it. But you would feel it. You would see your own fingers birthing themselves and scream until your lungs bled. PaleFace has gone to the BlueBottle now. The BlueBottle is following her with eyes, unlike fists. The eyes of the BlueBottle are like stones in the gutter. She ties me up while PaleFace looks on. If she gets close enough I will hickety-spit-spit in her face. When she is close enough to see her scales.

 

What’s wrong, Mum?

 

I turn away to make it harder for them to catch me. I can still wriggle and I can still bite. Ask the woman who came to my house. She came in the middle of night. There is too much sneaking in the shadows. But still, I think she was trying to help. She broke in to help and she has the most perfect face, like every piece in a jigsaw. When I look at PaleFace I think there are two pieces she has forgotten to insert. Perhaps she has lost them. I have not looked but I am sure my edges have been taken apart and jammed in all wrong by the clumsy hands of children. If Jigsaw returns she will unscuttle me. She promised.

 

I remember PaleFace. I think she was my daughter a long time ago.  I used to have a daughter. She was there, sometimes, but most of the time she snuck out to do questionable things in the dark. I think she did. The guilt was smeared on her face like jam. She has the same look now. The little grains of rice don’t always work.

 

She holds some shiny cards. I don’t hickety-spit because I see PaleFace wearing a large hat. She is thin and ludicrous like a lampstand. I see a small stumpy child with its hands in the mud. It has fat, burnt legs. I remember SmallPaleFace and finding her in rubbish bins and sometimes stuck up trees. PaleFace was bad at school. I locked her windows so that she wouldn’t slip into the night and be forgotten like a dream. The tubes of somethings fill me. I feel them trickling and tickling. I try to scratch them away but PaleFace grabs my hand.

 

I hold the fingers, though mine are still wobbling-wobbling. They are part of my own skin, like a freckle or a hair you forget. She drags the chair closer and I can feel it scraping on the floor and the fingers loosen. I hold on tight. It is nice to have the stories back again, like bits of broken shell finding each other on the sea-floor. When I wake she is gone.

 

It is light and I can hear screaming outside or perhaps it is inside. It could be the birds but it sounds like the screws and I think that the BlueBottles have found a way in and are twisting off the rust and oiling me. Someone is here. Pale. Thin. Tall. T-a-l-l. It is a short word for a long thing and I’m not sure if it is right. Like fork. Fork feels funny. Fork is not.

 

Are you feeling better today?

 

Feeling like fork. Feeling like the stabby thing that is not called fork. Travel to the day where the thing happened and pick it up in my brain and turn it round in my mouth, like sucking something sweet until it becomes small enough to crunch. Crunch is the thing you can do when lips don’t flop like an old balloon.

 

Better. Bet on her. Bet on her pearls in her pocket. Bet on her being the last thing I see. I cannot trust her not to twist out her pearls, rub them in her fingers, and lick them. Force them down my throat. The rice or the pearls or the things stick in my skin and I think they are trying to move inside like plants through soil. I think they want to flower me like an old dead pot. Colours through my ears at any moment but I cannot handle their sharpness and certainty. Better bet on her bite her.

Bite her. Bite her. Scaroosh. Oh, my daughter.

Julie Martis Author

Julie Martis, 31, lives in Glasgow, Scotland. She works as an actor and subtitler for television.

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