The Line of Fate by Suzanne Burns
With her teeth, Tabitha tore the sutures from the middle finger of her left-hand Ostrich glove in the Nordstrom’s bathroom. The nubby sections of dyed red leather pulled away from each other like a bad cut. The flesh of her middle finger, its manicured tip golden as the newest winter make-up trend, turned purple as she ran cold water over the exposed flesh.
“This is almost like getting a new finger,” she said towards the bathroom mirror. “One step closer to a better hand.”
Holiday music jazzed its sugarplums through the speakers. The air smelled of too much cinnamon.
Under the florescence, her finger looked alien, not belonging to her but more like a tangible flash of humanity thrust through the surface of so much cold-weather gear. From her wooly beret to her snow boots, Tabitha had shrouded her body from the effects of the Pacific Northwest’s endless winter in order to brave the department store crowds.
It was a black velveteen, a green plaid wool blend and now the red Ostrich, in the weeks since Halloween and the first appearance of storm clouds descending over the city. Tabitha had chewed through three pairs of gloves. Always in the bathroom at Nordstrom’s, always in front of a curved, water splattered mirror, now with a speaker-fed audience of Christmas carolers Santa Babying her on.
“Santa Baby, I’ve been an awful good girl,” she purred towards the mirror. Though it’s funny for me to call myself a forty-year-old girl.
Other women squirted holiday-scented hand sanitizer onto their palms, emergency travel-sized Bath and Body backup, to avoid stepping too near the woman who appeared to eat leather.
With the straps of various brand-named bags cutting off circulation to their wrists as they created a consumer fueled barrier, the women never got close enough to realize Tabitha was only pretending. Not to devour the most expensive gloves the city offered, but to break through those gloves with new hands. Each time, for the few moments it took her well-moisturized, well-tended skin to surface, she could pretend she was cataloging the hand of a stranger. Something so foreign in its dimensions, smooth as the fired bisque of the patients she once helped mend at the Doll Hospital in her mother’s basement.
• • •
As the town seamstress in a time when people fixed clothes instead of throwing them out, her mother ran the Doll Hospital on the side after Tabitha’s father died. Tabitha sat across from her at the card table under the glare of harsh basement lighting. For hours every night, the woman worked under the dim flicker to mend frayed bows or set fallen, synthetic curls. She also solved the common emergency crisis of children over-loving their doll companions into an early grave by gluing back together a shattered face or broken pelvis.
An amateur astrologist, Tabitha’s mother made up stories for each doll she repaired; an explanation as to how such a lovely strawberry headed or chocolate curled thing could wind up in a stranger’s basement surrounded by bits of sewing bric-a-brac and the occasional mouse dropping.
Baby Doll, the patient from the neighbor girl who always combed her doll’s hair so hard, the plastic fibers almost fused together, was obviously born under the sign of Taurus.
“How do you know that?” Tabitha would ask. She clutched her Raggedy Ann doll tight to her chest. With a free hand, she reached her stubby fingers towards the newest specimen but never touched. Those were the rules.
“Well, this doll was born under the sign of Taurus just like you, Tabby, because she is obstinate.”
The Line of Fate
No Sleep till Deadtown
Pigs Fry; Pigs Fly
Ripples From The Weather Aggregator
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