This piece first appeared in the Knoxville Writers’ Guild Anthology, Low Explosions: Writings on the Body. Maureen Sherbondy’s collection of short stories and flash fiction, The Slow Vanishing, will be published this fall by Main Street Rag. Visit their New Releases page to buy this book at a pre-order discount price of $9 (normally $13.95). MSR has also published two of Maureen’s poetry chapbooks, After the Fairy Tale and Praying at Coffee Shops.
Bit by bit, Sarah vanished. It began slowly — a swatch of fingertip tugged off. Everyone wanted something: her five children, her corporate husband, the in-laws, the neighbors, her two terriers, the PTA, her four younger sisters, the church parishioners. They were the takers, and she was the giver; this is the way it had always been. She barely noticed the initial throb of missing fingertip. The dull pain was interrupted by the disappearance of the small toe on her left foot, removed by her husband. Then, an ounce of flesh above her hip, which, really, she didn’t mind, as there had been so much extra flesh since that fourth pregnancy. The removal of flesh was like being gnawed by a very large rat. Chomp chomp. First she swatted the hand of the taker, a PTA parent this time; then she accepted this loss and waved goodbye as the ounce of flesh floated out the open window.
Phones rang endlessly with additional requests: to bake two dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale, volunteer for the book fair, organize the church charity talent show. Then the takers became ruthless. They descended, a swarm of hands and teeth. A finger, wearing her wedding band, floated away from the four-bedroom brick house, and then a large toe left the suburban cul-de-sac. Her slightly bulbous nose sprayed with tiny freckles drifted into the sky, a loss which made smelling the burning cupcakes difficult. She saw twenty freckles in the night sky lit up like red stars.
At night, achy, feeling scattered and lost, she closed her eyes (still intact, she had covered those with palms, no fingers) trying to find a dream where only givers lived. But, piece-by-piece even dreams parted.
When the children and husband and in-laws and PTA and church parishioners searched for Sarah, to ask just one last little favor, all that remained was a stain — a perfumed outline of who she had been.