An Arm or a Palm Frond or a Boot

by Michelle Ross

The boy is making his rusty old truck do things the girl didn’t know it could do when she sees an arm in the road. She knows better than to say anything in the moment. She keeps quiet as sap. Only after the boy parks the truck behind a thick tangle of trees, the road’s presence detectable solely by the sirens that whoosh past, does she say, “I saw an arm in the road a few miles back. A man’s arm.”

The boy says nothing, stares straight ahead at the trees. His long, elegant fingers still grip the wheel. She told him once that his fingers are her favorite part of his body. He didn’t like that so much. Didn’t like how she compared his fingers to delicate spider legs either. “A guy doesn’t want to be told that any part of him is delicate,” he said.

The girl says, “I guess it could have been a palm frond or a boot, but what I saw was a man’s arm. Thick and rough and tan.”

The boy’s fingers tap the wheel. The movement of the bones beneath the thin skin make the girl think of ballerinas chasséing in pointe shoes.

He says, “Are you saying you think we should go back? You think we made a terrible mistake?”

The girl sees the fear in the boy’s eyes, and she remembers their second date. She gave him a mix tape, and she complained that all he brought her was a dumb cereal-box joke. But then he kissed her, like she was oxygen and he was asphyxiating. Other boys had only ever kissed her like she was helium.

When the girl’s friend said he wasn’t good enough for the girl and asked what the girl saw in him, the girl said, “I see gentleness in him, vulnerability. And I see that he tries to see me.”

“Tries?” the friend said, shaking her head like the girl was the biggest fool she’d ever met.

“That’s right,” the girl said. “And that’s more than I can say for you.”

Now the girl takes the boy’s hand in her hands, and she says, “I’m just telling you what I saw. Maybe I saw wrong. Maybe I didn’t. Either way, I saw what I saw.”

Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (2017), which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. Her fiction has recently appeared in CRAFT Literary, New World Writing, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, Tahoma Literary Review, and other venues. www.michellenross.com

Artwork by: Dani “King” Heriyanto

Dani “King” Heriyanto is an artist from Indonesia. A graduate from the Indonesian Institute of Art, Dani has exhibited his work widely, most recently at the Singapore ArtStage and the Jakarta Art Bazart.

Links
Instagram: @dani_king__heriyanto.