Fiction by Ashley Hutson
Eileen possessed sub-par legs. She was born with weird, fragile bones that kept her inside when other children were outside. She strove for positivity. She loved her daddy, who was once a Marine. She loved her mommy, who was once, fantastically, a princess of cherry blossoms or apple blossoms or some other delicate flower. She loved her sissy, who was three years older with strong teeth. Eileen was the runt. Eileen could not run or jump. Eileen could not ascend or descend stairs without a conscientious adult gripping her firmly. Eileen was not to be pushed or jostled or touched in any way. Eileen received many special dispensations. She had been delivered to their family by a wild wind, her mommy told her once, and Eileen was inclined to agree.
There was a photo of her daddy taped to her bedroom door, a candid shot taken back when he was a soldier. Daddy seemed so glamorous in black and white. In the picture he wore a buzzed haircut and dark sunglasses, not a great look for Daddy but still very clearly Daddy. She wanted him all to herself. She cut him out of the picture, cut away the military base in the background. When she was done, Daddy had no legs. Daddy was cut off at the knees, and there was a troubling eggishness to his head shape.
Daddy looked strange all by himself.
Eileen also had a picture of Mommy. The photo was from long ago, before Eileen and Sissy existed. It begged for the scissors. In it Mommy wore a pink dress and her hair was shiny and black and parted down the middle like a Spanish dancer’s. Mommy’s feet were not in the picture. Mommy looked upsetting when Eileen finished trimming, with two flat stumps sticking out of her dress.
The only picture Eileen had of Sissy was a family photo taken at church. In this picture Sissy didn’t have legs. She didn’t even have a waist. All Sissy had was a chest and a smiling head, and the rest faded into smoke.
When Eileen got done there were many scraps scattering the floor. Mommy came by, saw the carnage. “Oh!” Mommy said wisely. “You’re going to regret that.”
Eileen decided to cut out herself. She found a photo from Easter two years ago. She was only 7 then. Her legs were included. She put her own carved-out image next to her mommy and daddy and sissy. They were all maimed and out of time. There was something done here that could not be undone. Eileen cried.“I’m sorry,” she said to her poor sissy.
“I’m sorry,” she said to the mess she’d made of Daddy.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered to hobbled Mommy.
Eileen came to her own photo. “You’re sorry,” she said. She snipped off her own legs and laughed. Then she gathered up every stray sliver and remnant and headed for the door. Outside, she waited for a wind.
© Ashley Hutson
[This piece was selected by Dylan Brie Ducey]
Ashley Hutson lives in rural Maryland. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in several journals, including Fiction International, SmokeLong Quarterly, McSweeney’s, The Conium Review, and Threadcount. Read more at www.aahutson.com.