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Six Ways to Break Her

Story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Read author interview) March 29, 2015

art by Jennifer Stufflebeam

1. When she was old enough to know that her chest was flat, her father built a skin of glass around her. He was afraid, he said, that she would see the world for what it was.

When she was old enough to see the world for what it was, she had no father to build thicker glass; his methods went with him to the grave. On her own, she met a man who smashed her against his bedpost until she shattered. Before this, she had known him as a friend. Her broken pieces cut into his back for years. He lived with the scars.

When he was old enough to make a family of his own, he bought a new mattress and swept her pieces into the trash. In the Columbia Ridge Landfill, she stayed buried beneath a stack of old mattresses, like the princess’ pea.

2. Born of glass, she grew of glass. Her family never mentioned her condition. No one asked. No one looked at her. The family became glass too: her mother, father, sister glass. They did not say a word.

One day she crawled into a bath of scalding water. The water leaked in through her cracks. The cracks spread through her like veins. As she stood she slipped apart.

Her family sold their house with the bathtub full of shards and water. They live in Boston now.

3. Her father sculpted her from melted vodka bottles in his workshop where he slept and ate and molded this daughter from his mistakes. He used his hands, and the red hot glass left blisters on his skin. He poured vodka over the sores. Blue letters swirled through her skin, an S on her belly, a V behind her left ear. She reeked of liquor like her father’s breath.

When he died of liver failure, she crawled with him into the ground. What is a creation without its maker?

4. She began life on an Oregon beach, the child of lightning and sand. Two women found her. They took her home and sat her upon their mantel. Every morning they dusted and washed her. For five years life was this simple routine.

Then they no longer washed her. They yelled. Her dust settled three inches thick, one for every year they forgot. She could no longer see through her glass eyes.

One day they yelled so loud she burst.

5. She was skin in a world of others made of glass. Her parents’ hands were cold. Her first kiss fell on hard lips. Between her legs she went untouched, the glass so hard it hurt her.

The world’s winters were harsh and lasted half the year. Her parents did not know the snow would freeze her.

6. She always knew that skin was faulty and imperfect. Her father’s body rotted from the inside out, as he shook in the knees and grew fat with tumors, his whiskey breath loud and labored. In therapy, after the death of a friend by drowning, the therapist asked her to choose a face to describe her mother. “Smiley face on the outside but frowny face on the inside,” she said. In middle school the weight of too many ibuprofens in her palm, as if that would kill her. In college the weight of too much cheap beer in her belly and twenty bodies on top of her.

Some people don’t know this, but skin under pressure turns to glass.

Her family is alive to meet the man she marries. At the garden ceremony, she wears a dress of blue rose petals glued over her surface. She does not feel their soft silk. Her husband gives her a new home where everything is tile and brick, so that she has no choice but to confront her fragility. He buys her a chisel. He reminds her to use it. He helps her begin.

But it is her hand that digs it in and brings the hammer down.

About the Author

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam lives in Texas with her partner and two literarily named cats: Gimli and Don Quixote. Her fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in magazines such as Room, Hobart, Strange Horizons, and Goblin Fruit. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program and curates an annual Art & Words Show, which was profiled in Poets & Writers.

About the Artist

Jennifer Stufflebeam lives and works as an artist in Fort Worth, Texas, where she runs Art on the Boulevard, a cooperative art gallery. She studied art at Tarrant County Community College and her work is displayed at Art on the Boulevard and in various local shows. Her medium is largely acrylic and oil stick on canvas. She loves rat terriers, fresh bread and re-painting furniture; in fact, if you stand still long enough in her house, you are likely to be painted too.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Seven

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