Ribs And Other Things We Cling To by Kathryn McMahon
Incoming managing editor Krys Malcolm Belc on today's bonus story: The combination of tenderness and enchantment with which the narrator regards their lover is what caught me most when reading this piece. The imagery is delightful, and so is the notion that one can behold something wondrous and even secret when watching their sleeping lover.
Ribs And Other Things We Cling To
Every night I watch a circus parade down your spine. As you snore, jugglers appear at the nape of your neck, tossing silk ribbons, flaming clubs, and petite jeers caught crackling in your teeth like kettle corn. Elephants march at their heels and stop at your buttocks where they balance a ball and mount it—a dozen trunks stacked and straining while you breathe. (I can’t.) They never fall but roll away over one hip, and I’m always surprised their trumpeting doesn’t wake you. Then again, you’ll sleep through almost anything: the alarm, our baby, your mother’s TV, even the trapeze artists swinging from your hair to land on the backs of tigress acrobats, well-fed and claw-clipped.
I can’t relax, not yet, waiting for the end of the show. Drums rasp and out of your mouth flies a human cannonball. I won’t see where she lands, but she’ll be back tomorrow. Hers is not the most dangerous act.
When the cymbals clash, I net my fingers, ready to save the sword-throwing unicyclists who zoom past your scapulas lobbing death at each other. The night we found out you were pregnant, one fell and you woke up asking what happened. A sword-thrower clinging to your rib looked at me with huge tiny eyes, and I said, “You scratched yourself in your sleep. You know how restless you can be.” You thumbed my earlobe, so I took your chin. “You are Stupendous. Spectacular. Amazing.”
Kathryn McMahon is a queer American writer living abroad. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Baltimore Review, Jellyfish Review, Split Lip, Necessary Fiction, and others. She has received nominations for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart. On Twitter, she is @katoscope. Find more of her writing at http://darkandsparklystories.com/.