Mr. Postman

by Daniel Watts

Joe Schmoe was a regular fellow who delivered the post every morning to the same houses on the same nondescript streets. Plain hair. Plain walking shoes from Sketchers™ in a reasonable but daring (as his wife would describe them) black with a singular streak of electric blue. Uniform pressed neatly every morning by Mrs. Schmoe. “I packed a little extra something in your lunch pail,” she’d say, waving a white handkerchief to her handsome knight.

At lunch Joe reached into the back of his truck pulling out his lunch pail with extreme anticipation. Two sandwiches. An apple. A handful of carrots. A small tin of assorted pills—for your heart, dear—and wait, what was this? Joe pulled out a small bottle of chocolate milk. That woman spoils me!

Despite everything that was mundane about Joe, his thoughts were anything but. He was constantly thinking of the individual worlds tucked away behind the assorted doors and mailboxes of his route. Mrs. Abigail Petunia always received letters with official stamps stretched across brown envelopes. Definitely an undercover agent. Harry S. Stepford had at least thirty adverts delivered each morning. Compulsive buyer. Or perhaps convenient source of toilet paper? Ms. Agnes Grange was a jewel thief. Joe didn’t know how he knew this, but he attributed it mostly to the white, daintily embroidered gloves she held out to him each morning as she impatiently waited for her mail.

“What you staring at boy? I ‘aven’t got all day.”

One morning, as Joe plodded along—red door, blue tin mailbox, brown door, plastic mailbox, white door, metal mail slot—he got caught up in his thoughts. Approaching Pine Drive number 4530, Joe pulled out a stack of letters and absentmindedly sorted through them. He dropped them neatly into the gold mail slot in the black door. Mr. and Mrs. 4530 were new to the town and moved here to escape a recent con gone terribly wrong.

Then Joe had a wild thought. I’m going to prove they’re guilty. He put his hand on the cool metal doorknob and slowly turned it in his grip.

Joe stepped inside, his shoes making slight squeaking noises on freshly cleaned tiles. Was there a car in the driveway? The silence was palpable, much like his wife’s oven-fresh buns: hot and heavy, a dangerous combination.

He made his way into the kitchen and grabbed a banana from the counter, peeling the yellow dress back languorously. Lovely kitchen. I could do without the wainscoting, a bit over the top if you ask me. But of course no one was asking, for Joe was both alone and not an accomplished interior designer (it was, in fact, a backsplash and not wainscoting to which he was referring).

He traveled to the most sacred of spaces: the bedroom. He dropped his heavy satchel to the floor, and taking one look at the large bed neatly done in indigo satin, he plunged. Ten for ten. Good show, good show. I should consider doing this professionally. 

Diving, as anyone knows, is strenuous work, and Joe promptly fell dead. Wait, something doesn’t seem quite right. Ah yes. Joe promptly fell asleep. Sorry ole’ chap. No harm, no foul?

Fortunately, due to the stunning array of pills Joe consumed every morning thanks to Mrs. Schmoe, Joe was gifted with excellent hearing. Or perhaps those two things aren’t quite related and he just had good hearing. He jolted awake to the steady click of high heels on the tiled floor. Three inch high heels. Size seven. Black patent leather. Ooo, very chic. Too dressy for the office? What’s this? A small gold clasp? Unexpected. Daring, as my wife would say. Thoughts, upon waking, are never quite spot on as the tiny tendrils of dreamy fog curl around them and distort the mind. The heels were in fact, three and a half inches high and they were coming straight for the bedroom.

Joe’s eyes shuffled about the room in a mad dance as he looked for an escape route. The window was firmly shut and decided he might rip his uniform if he busted through the glass, which looked so easy in movies, but Joe was a postman and not a stunt double. The bathroom wouldn’t be ideal as women do indeed use it (this he learned in his first few years of marriage). The closet was even less ideal as women live a large majority of their lives fluttering weakly to its gentle glow. That left two options: face the intruder or duck under the bed.

“Must he always leave the bed in such a mess?” A woman’s rich voice filled the room. “For once, oh never mind.”

She kicked off her heels, black stockings dropped neatly beside them, along with a sleek red skirt. Joe, frozen to the spot, breathed shallow breaths, thoughts scampering off in wild directions.

Eventually, the woman left the room and Joe began concocting stories. Well, you see, I made a mistake and dropped in a letter not addressed to you. I thought I heard a dog whimpering and as an animal activist could not bear the thought of it being in pain. I’m actually with the police. Your life is in serious danger and we need to run away together at this very instant. The last seemed most plausible and sensible to Joe. He readied himself and began slowly inching his way from beneath the bed.

He stopped. The door opened and in walked a man. Size eleven. No heel. Well perhaps a slight ¾ of an inch. Brogues. Brown, but unpolished. 

“Pumpkin? Is that you?” the woman’s voice, faint, called from the living room? second bathroom?

He retreated to the shadows of his new dominion and watched as brown shoes were joined on the ground by navy trousers and a grey silk tie. Now what? 

The interesting thing about taking up residency underneath someone’s bed is that while one sees very little, one hears a lot. Bedrooms are littered with secrets much like the clothes that lie strewn about on the ground, dirty—to varying degrees—and openly exposed. Eventually, they are gathered and done away with, but there seems to linger in the room the reminiscence that they will soon reoccupy the space, an endless cycle. Medium, cold-cold, delicates.

Days turned into weeks. Joe’s thoughts were consumed with clothes, with intimacy, with betrayal. Pumpkin wears a size 34 waist and those Bermuda shorts certainly suggest otherwise.  But Pumpkin and Honey had their gushing nights as well; Joe was often rocked to sleep by the strainings and groanings of the bed. It must have been a lovely evening. An emerald silk gown fluttered to the floor, an ephemeral treasure trove that was quickly stashed away. It was quickly joined by a sharp, black tuxedo that rested in a jumbled passion.

His wife was worried sick: the post stopped being delivered, and the town was on the hunt for the missing man whose mail truck was stationed on the corner of Pines Drive. This he knew because he heard it from Honey. Pumpkin was disinterested and decided that Joe was probably just sick of his wife and needed a vacation.

“The woman is a loony, I’m not surprised he’s run off. He’s probably on some island in the sun. Wouldn’t that be swell? Honey, can you help with this cuff?”

Joe did his stretches every morning, shopped for breakfast in the sleek fridge and polished cabinets, and read a number of books. He began stockpiling small amounts of food within the springs above his head for when he got hungry in the evening, although he desperately wished he could join Honey and Pumpkin for dinner as the aromas often engulfed him in his shadowy lair. Cereal was highly inconvenient because the plastic was too crinkly, and chewing too crunchy. Oranges, far too aromatic. Leftovers, too suspicious and he lacked a microwave. Maybe I could fit one right over here. Add in a small fan here for the stifling summer nights. Perhaps I could squeeze in a small lamp as well.

What Joe did not think of was that Honey and Pumpkin were generally meticulous with their cleaning. He only had managed for so long because they hated the demeaning task of kneeling in submission to the thing which they already attributed so much of their life. But the task had to be done.

Honey reached a long, slender arm beneath the bed in search of any articles that had been fed haphazardly to the gaping maw of the indigo beast. Of the articles that had been devoured, Joe would promptly spit them out (he couldn’t really afford the encroachment on his space) but Honey didn’t know this. Neither did Joe know that there was a hand snaking towards him as it was half past four (near the end of his mid-afternoon nap, which meant REM cycle number 3—or, the most pleasant of dreams). Honey screamed as she felt the warmth of Joe’s arm and Joe screamed as he was rudely ripped from his waltz with Keira Knightley.

He emerged in a dramatic swoop from underneath the bed—a move he had mastered within the months of rigorous training—facing Honey. They both stared at each other with baffled expressions on their faces. Honey, for the obvious reason of witnessing someone emerge from underneath her bed; Joe, because he had never before seen above the ankles of this woman he felt he knew rather well.

She was beautiful. A shapely body, deep brown eyes framed by late autumn hair, elegant lips parted in a gentle gasp. Freckles adorned her skin. She was wearing a muted gold shift dress that caught the late evening sun. A golden charm bracelet whipped about her delicate wrist as Honey frantically waved it in front of Joe’s glossed eyes.

“Hello! What are you doing in my house?”

Joe came up with the only reasonable explanation. One that he had gone over the lonely nights under the bed. “Honey. Your life is in jeopardy. But this is no game. We’ve got to go now,” he said with a Sean Connery-esque terseness. He swept her into his arms for dramatic effect and looked at his watch for even more dramatic effect.

What would Pumpkin have said had he walked in just at that moment? He didn’t so we shan’t dwell on that thought.

What would Mrs. Schmoe have said? What would Mrs. Schmoe say? Joe dropped Honey to the ground with an abrupt thump and scurried out of the room.

Needless to say, entering into houses that do not belong to you can often create interesting situations.

Joe continued to deliver the mail day after day. Mrs. Schmoe upped the pill dosage because Joe seemed rather excitable these days. Pumpkin continued not caring. And as for Honey, well, she delivered a beautiful baby nine months later. The neighbors cooed and awed at his dimpled cheeks and professed that he looked just like his father. Pumpkin, however, wasn’t convinced. But then again, you can never quite tell with babies.

 

 

 

 

Daniel Watts: I’m terrible at these things. What am I supposed to put here again? I like long walks on the beach, romantic candlelit dinners, and slow dancing to… wait no, this might not be the best place for this. I’m a Junior at BYU studying sociocultural anthropology (that doesn’t entail working at that furniture/clothing store). I aspire to be a writer by day and Batman by night. Or something along those lines. 

Trudy

by Tamara Thomson

They took us to Tabiona. It was my first camping trip. My therapist had moved me up to level three so I could go on activities off-grounds. “You are coping better with your anger, Trudy. I am proud of you.”

My baby sister was buried in Tabiona. In group therapy, I told my therapist that I wanted to see her grave.

“How would that make you feel, Trudy?”

“She drowned because of me,” I said, even though it was a lie. “I was babysitting. It is my fault she is dead.”

I don’t know why I lied. It seemed easier, somehow. Maybe I lied because Laura was in my group and her legs were crossed in her chair like an Indian half my size and she was nodding at me like she knew all my secrets because she gave me my first weed and because we had lived in the same shithole town. Or maybe it was because her State-Hospital-boyfriend had a receding hairline at seventeen and always sat next to her in therapy. Or maybe it was because I only wanted to tell Karolla the truth. I knew Karolla would understand me, if only we could be in the same group therapy or in the same school class. Karolla had orange and brown hiking boots and low-top Converse and white running shoes and she wore tie-dye and listened to Pink Floyd and read big books and she hung art on her brick walls with sticky blue stuff and she had the nicest smile I’d ever seen.

The campground in Tabiona had giant teepees to sleep in. I tried to set-up my sleeping bag next to Karolla, but her therapist was already there. So I spread out my sleeping bag next to her therapist’s. The air in the teepee smelled hot and moldy, and my sleeping bag narrowed at the bottom. Laura watched me. “Come on, Trudy, there is more room over here.” She grabbed the duffel bag I made in sewing class by its neon green handles and threw it to the back of the teepee. The neighborhood I came from was full of dogs. Skinny ones and mean ones. “Let’s go swimming, Trudy. Get your suit,” Laura said.

In the mining town where I knew Laura, far away from Tabiona, my parents, Wayne and Donna, had fought about the mill. Donna wanted to go back to Tabiona. Wayne said there was nothing there. Donna said, “There ain’t nothing here but the mill and the poison, Wayne, don’t you even care about the poison?”

Cyanide killed birds and cleaned out the gold. Slurry poured down the mountain, crossed the highway and dumped worthless excess to form a hill. I imagined cyanide in my bones, I wished it in my blood, I wanted it to bleed out of my eyes. Donna bleached her hair. She spiked it with blue gel. Wayne drank on the porch of graying, splintering wood flaking white paint, “Proud Union Home” in blue block letters above his head. Home. Home. “This ain’t a home,” sobbed Donna. “My baby ain’t here.”

Missy wasn’t in the dirty mining town. She was buried in Tabiona. The dogs in Tabiona were friendly. They swam in the creek and never bothered our rabbit hutch. The creek ran right by our trailer, beneath the trees, and I would fill the tin watering can in the cold water and scatter it in the dust. Droplets would stand and stand—magnifying the dust or reflecting the green trees in globes until each drop leached out of itself and turned the dust to earth. Missy could totter on the moist ground without raising clouds to fill her nose and ears.

My state-appointed caseworker bought the swimming suit for me—turquoise and yellow. Like cat urine. I wore a t-shirt and shorts over it. Laura held my hand at the campground pool and we jumped into the cold water. But it wasn’t as cold as the creek. Once, before Missy died, I asked Donna if we could go swimming at the pool. “What for? The creek is just as good and it don’t cost nothin.” In the pool I could hold my breath and sink down, far down, and the sun and the sky glimmered in silence and the chlorine burned my eyes. Laura said, “Let’s go to the graveyard tomorrow, Trudy. I want to be there for you.”

When I got back to the teepee after swimming, Karolla and her blond therapist were alone. “Listen to this,” her therapist said as she gently placed earphones onto Karolla’s head. Karolla looked at me then curled up on her sleeping bag. Her therapist handed me a bag of red licorice “Want some?” When I took it she watched me for a minute. My cheeks grew hot. I fumbled for something in my bag. As I turned to leave I saw her therapist lie down next to Karolla and put her long arm around her.

The next day, my therapist went to town for sodas and said we could stop at the graveyard. Laura was down at the showers. I quietly asked Karolla to go with me and I could feel my face getting hot again. My hands felt clammy and I wiped them on my jeans. But Karolla agreed to go.

On the way to town I said, “My little sister is buried in the graveyard. Will you go with me to her grave?”

“What? She is buried here? Have you been here before? I didn’t even know this place existed until now.” She emphasized the word existed, like Tabiona was the oddest place. I didn’t mind. She made my stomach flutter and sometimes I wanted to hide my face or stick out my tongue in embarrassment when she looked at me, but I wanted to tell Karolla about Tabiona and about Missy. I don’t think I can explain why—Karolla just seemed to know things. When we lived next to the creek, beneath the cottonwoods, I would lie in bed at night and listen to the wind in the leaves and the movement of water and the largeness of summer was just outside my window and it was limitless and dark and inescapable. Karolla reminded me of those nights.

I wanted to warn her about the headstone the shape of a semi-truck cab—the grill, headlights, and windshield carved from gray granite—that stood next to baby Missy’s grave. I hated it, the memory of that trucker gravestone, rising above the grave that was so close to Missy. I would explain the connection in my mind between seeing that granite semi-truck and the feel of cement sidewalk under my bare feet. The hot blacktop street, or the prickly dead grass, or even the gravel on the side of the house was better than bare feet on the sidewalk. Walking barefoot on a sidewalk was like the feel of chalkboards and chalk. Better to lick the chalk off my hands than feel the dry, smooth grit. Karolla would get it. She would understand everything.

I would tell Karolla that it wasn’t my fault. I would tell her I was ten when Donna sent me to the market. The clothesline grew heavy with wet t-shirts, Missy’s jammies, and three pairs of jeans that sagged at the hips. Donna was out of smokes and sent me across the creek and the highway with six quarters. The market smelled like new paint and wet wood.

“Hey Trudy, whatch ya need, hun?”

“Newport lights, soft pack.”

“Anything else for your mum?”

I remember everything and I would tell Karolla every detail—how outside the market the old German shepherd panted in the shade of the porch, how the wind rolled a plastic cup around in semicircles. I was barefoot. Running back across the highway, around the blackened, twisted cedar fence post, and down to the creek I was careful not to crush the smokes. I stepped down to cross the creek. I would tell her how I looked at my dirty foot on the bank and thought how clean and cold the water would be and how, right then, I saw her floating by, her face down. I remember my foot, my dirty foot and the way the dust feathered up between my toes, and how I was thinking how cool and clean the creek would be when I saw her, Missy, floating, and I dropped the pack of Newports in the water as I grabbed her and screamed and screamed for Donna.

I would say to Karolla, “We left Tabiona before the gravestone was set—there was just a little mound of fresh dirt and that damn semi-truck stone. We left the trailer and the rabbits and the creek and the cottonwoods and all the cotton that would pile up against the trailer steps and drove until there weren’t any trees only the fly infested lake water and salt encrusted shallows and old naked mountains and new mountains of tailings and slurry sluicing down from the mine.” And Karolla would wrap her arm around me—there wouldn’t be any staff to say it was inappropriate—and she would hold me in the graveyard.

My therapist waited in the van when we got to the little cemetery. There were a few flimsy trees but it was hot. A group of swallows was rushing about and they seemed to be arguing. Around the graveyard grew sagebrush and junipers. I pinched some sagebrush leaves, rolled them between my fingers, and held them to Karolla’s nose. Her eyes widened, “Holy shit, I didn’t know those smelled like that.” She picked more leaves, stabbed her fingernails into them then inhaled over and over. “Oh my hell! Deliciousness!”

I walked straight to Missy’s grave though it had been six years—Karolla followed a little behind while taking deep whiffs of the sage, like she was getting high on it. The semi-truck was still there but it wasn’t so glossy. Missy’s small flat stone lying in the grass looked delicate and peaceful, and it had a lamb etched on it. It said:

Missy Dawn
Celestial Child Of
Wayne and Donna Hendricks

Other graves had been decorated with colored pinwheels that squeaked and squeaked above the dead. I held very still—my head tilted and turned down. I waited for Karolla to stand next to me. Instead, she walked past me to the semi-truck grave.

“What the hell is this?” she said. I looked sideways at her brown and orange hiking boots. The long laces were wrapped around the back of the shoe and tied in front. A stake in the ground next to the semi-truck stone held up an empty bird feeder. A black coffee mug squatted next to the stake. “Who would ever . . .” Karolla said, almost to herself.  The swallows pattered and trilled. She took another deep whiff of the sage. “I think there is a hint of watermelon in this. No—I am not sure, it almost smells like ocean water. I don’t know. It just smells like heaven.”

The hills around Tabiona looked dry and ugly. The sun was just barely behind us and my shadow was a dingy hump on the stone. Finally, Karolla moved toward me, her shadow nearly touched mine. “Is that her grave?” she said. I nodded. I waited for her to ask about Missy, to ask about Donna or Wayne or Tabiona, but she was silent. I tried to think of something to say, of some way to begin my story, to tell Karolla about my lie, about my innocence, about the jeans on the clothesline and about the empty look in Missy’s eyes when I pulled her from the water and how heavy she felt. I wanted Karolla to touch me, to press me or to handle me in any way, but she just stood there in her hiking boots, the sage still pinched between her fingers and the sound of the angry swallows and the squeaking pin-wheels filled my ears.

 

 

 

 

Tamara Pace Thomson is an MFA candidate in creative writing. She and her husband have three kids, two dogs, and a hedgehog (thanks to Shamae Budd for the inspiration).

Untitled Photographs

by Eric Edvalson

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Eric Edvalson is an interdisciplinary artist from Richland, Washington. Working in photography, sculpture, and installation, his work uses the visual language of commercial products to explore nostalgia, loneliness, and shared cultural experience.

Clay as Clay

by Brandon Boulton

 

 

Brandon Boulton is an artist working in the state of Utah. He teaches sculpture at Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University. His work is an exploration of systems of perception, creation, and evolution.

Spontaneous Combustion (1), (2), and (3)

by Aloe Corry

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Aloe Corry works primarily in photography, painting, and collage and graduated with a BFA from BYU in December 2016. Much of her art practice stems from the idea of dislocation, which she defines as the disruption of an established order or the physical sensation of having something pushed out of place. Corry is drawn to the uneasy line between the familiar and the unfamiliar, and many of her works serve as visual maps of dislocation: relics or remnants of the passage. She is interested in narrative: the potential of images to tell stories, and the power that we have as artists to disrupt, recalibrate, or distort those stories.

Trillionish

by Caitlyn Pearson

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Caitlyn is a senior at BYU studying English and French and is headed to Philadelphia to begin an M.A. in Couple and Family Therapy. She is currently a lover of bossa nova and Adrienne Rich. She is always a lover of friends, puppies and God.

Untitled

by Sara K. Bown

 

 

 

Sára Kasanová Bown was born in the Czech Republic in 1993. Sára works predominantly in the medium of video and photography. Her art is often based on performance and everyday observations of mundane objects and moments. Her work deals with perception of memory as well as current events. Currently Sára is a BFA candidate at Brigham Young University. She has repeatedly received juror’s awards in both the Mayhew show and the Annual Student show at BYU. In 2016 she interned with David Thorpe in Berlin, Germany. She currently lives and works in Provo, Utah. 

 

In Between

by Sara K. Bown

 

 

 

Sára Kasanová Bown was born in the Czech Republic in 1993. Sára works predominantly in the medium of video and photography. Her art is often based on performance and everyday observations of mundane objects and moments. Her work deals with perception of memory as well as current events. Currently Sára is a BFA candidate at Brigham Young University. She has repeatedly received juror’s awards in both the Mayhew show and the Annual Student show at BYU. In 2016 she interned with David Thorpe in Berlin, Germany. She currently lives and works in Provo, Utah. 

 

Untitled

by Sara K. Bown

 

 

 

Sára Kasanová Bown was born in the Czech Republic in 1993. Sára works predominantly in the medium of video and photography. Her art is often based on performance and everyday observations of mundane objects and moments. Her work deals with perception of memory as well as current events. Currently Sára is a BFA candidate at Brigham Young University. She has repeatedly received juror’s awards in both the Mayhew show and the Annual Student show at BYU. In 2016 she interned with David Thorpe in Berlin, Germany. She currently lives and works in Provo, Utah. 

Evelyn’s Hands

by Heather Thomson

Evelyn considers objects with her slim infant fingers, moving her digits slowly, independent of each other—absentmindedly, automatically: she has not yet learned to control her movements. In her sleep, she moves her fingers in long elegant waves, like the legs of a spider on water, and shoots her hands up above her head when she hears a bang, bringing them down slowly—eyes still closed—with fingers spread, as though in worship. My daughter’s hands are like a spider’s web: softer and finer than you might expect, and as lightweight and translucent. They are cooler than you would expect, too, and do not possess the supposed death grip—the kind that Annie Dillard’s weasel had on the eagle’s throat—and the kind that Evelyn’s mouth has on my breast when suckling, with a tongue-tie limiting her motion, restricting her jaw. Two innate abilities: to suck and to grip. Her fingers are loose where her mouth is tight.

I suppose it is commonplace to contemplate tiny hands. Each of her fingers is its own delicate strand in an intricate web of bone and flesh and purple veins, forming hands that are, at two months old, two inches by one-and-a-half. I study her palms, between the creases where the black fluff from her little gloves has gathered.

But I study her hands as metaphor, too.

Of course, there is the time-old, clichéd question, which I’m sure every new mom has asked: what will these hands one day do? Curiously, I don’t think about this much. We read hands like the wrinkled map of one’s past, or the bright pages of one’s future. More generally, we use the hand as synecdoche: a part to stand for the whole (person). Give a hand, lend a hand, ask for a hand in marriage. (If she to me is “hand,” then I to her am “breast.”) Instead of reading her future in her hands, I try to read her present.

I have seen her carefully wrap her fingers around the cold steel arms of a pair of scissors her father was using to cut off her hospital bracelet (he stopped just in time). I have seen her reach for other objects, warmer, friendlier ones: the healing fingers of her chiropractor making miniature circles on her jaw—gently massaging the bone. I have felt her knuckle-white nails in a colic rage sink into my flesh. I have felt her fists pound on my breast in hunger. And, I have seen her stretch those same hands just barely above her head after a good snooze, shake them with anger before a cry, and wave them in delight when she offers us a smile. People say that crying is an infant’s only form of communication. Evelyn’s hands seem to suggest otherwise.

As I’ve been writing this essay, Evelyn has learned how to bring her fist to her mouth to soothe herself, similar to what she did with her fingers in the womb. She’s combining her two instincts of sucking and gripping. Eventually she will learn how to more fully use her hands. How to pick things up, for instance, developing her fine motor skills. Her communication will later more fully switch from her hands to her mouth: she will begin to speak in words, her sounds now being only cries, grunts, babbles, and gurgles, many of them still unintelligible to me. Some may say that even at her present stage, the mouth is still the predominant communicator. It may be the more obvious one. But the fingers were in motion first, before the sputtering cry in which she gasped for her first breath.

She never wanted to be swaddled, having all her limbs restrained, tucked close to the body, a position that is supposed to mimic being in the womb. Even then, she wanted her hands free: during ultrasounds, I watched the black and white images as if they were old silent films, of her sucking her fingers, clasping them together, and, once—as though with a dramatic flair—putting her hand to her forehead, palm up. She is her mother’s daughter, I thought, as I watched her on the screen. My husband and I don’t put the socks on her hands that are used to prevent scratching, nor do we cover them when she sleeps. In fact, the only time we cover her hands is to bring her outside into the Canadian winter, and even then, we leave her arms free to move, putting only her gloves on, and popping them off as soon as possible.

When referring to the procedure to alleviate tongue-tie, they use the euphemistic term “clipping”instead of “cutting,”as though it were only an ancillary fingernail, instead of a membrane of flesh (called the frenulum) holding down the tongue. A baby is clipped if the membrane prevents her from breastfeeding properly; tongue-tie can also later restrict a child when she begins to speak. When they clipped Evelyn, they had to restrain her hands so she would not grasp at the instruments.

Restraining hands is meant for suspects in metal handcuffs. Not Evelyn, who—unsuspecting—had her own hands restrained beside her body in the folds of a sterile white hospital blanket moments before the procedure. Suspects are told they have the “right”to remain silent. The right to not speak, which also implies the right to speak. Her way of speaking—with her hands—was taken from her, as it would be from a person who was handcuffed and only spoke sign-language. It was seeing the restraint of Evelyn’s hands that made me look away in pain, not the blood gurgling cry that would follow, which was like a second birth. In Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,”the heroine exchanges her voice for a pair of legs by having her tongue cut out. In Evelyn’s case, there was also an exchange, but we made that decision for her. Her tongue would be freed at the price of her hands, though they were restrained only temporarily. Thirty seconds to be exact (at least, that is what we were told), though it seemed much longer. When the clipping was finally over, she breastfed with blood streaming down us both, and she pumped her upper fist at me, as if to make sure I knew she never wanted to be silenced again.

As for my own hands, one holds her now as she feeds and subsequently sleeps; the other types, one-handed, fingers like spider-feet stretching for the keys. It’s like playing a difficult piece on the piano: let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth. People keep telling me that Evelyn has piano player hands. I smile at them, politely. I realize that most of them are merely commenting on her anatomy of long, slim fingers. But I don’t want others’ ideas imposed on her of what she should do: I want her to choose for herself. She is now only beginning to learn what her hands may do, what they can reach for, what they may grasp. In this moment, it is my own hand in hers. Sometimes, though, I catch myself wondering if—and guiltily hoping that—like me, she will eventually turn her hand to writing, that her hands may once again be the medium through which her voice is heard.

 

 

 

Heather Thomson is a recent graduate of the MFA creative writing program at BYU. She currently lives in Montreal with her husband and newborn daughter.