Issue 35, Final Fringe

Excerpts from "Shell-Shaped Pieces of Bone"

by Traci O Connor Issue 28 11.07.2011


My mother is a roving secretary and my father sees her in an office across the hall and that was that. He searches for her, floor by floor, because she never stays in one place too long, you see. And then, there she is in the lunchroom and their eyes meet and my father just knows. This is my father’s story.

My father is tall and handsome, a wave of dark hair, tanned skin. An Olympic javelin thrower, Tokyo ‘64.  Muscular, powerful, the body of a hero. My father is used to winning.

My mother, oh she’s pretty, but her teeth are like this: bent and gray, a little like a rodent’s. She doesn’t have, how do we say it: the va-voom of Southern California—the glamour of year-round sun, the melodrama of the beach. She grew up in a one-lane Mormon town, watching movies in the church house, stocking shelves at the General Store, which always smelled of cows. Of course she hides her hands in her lap. Of course she presses her lips together in a thin, pink line.  Of course she falls in love.

Their first date is in his living room; imagine what happens in the dark: maybe she presses her toes against the side of his thigh.  Maybe he caresses her calves. Maybe his hands roam across the angles of her hips, her other furtive places. Maybe her body is the first thing—the puzzle, the lock, the Gordian knot. What brilliant design! The writing on the wall. Yes it’s true, God knows a thing or two about desire. Even what my mother hides, like precious jewels in paper boxes.

Then my father is baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and they are married for time and all eternity and there is nothing she won’t give to him. There is nothing he can’t take. Then she is carrying his suitcase to the car and he is flying off to Europe. Then she is making eggs with milk gravy and he is selling her electric-blue Mustang for his fishing boat. Then she is sitting on a towel and I am standing ankle-deep in surf and my father is always somewhere else.

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Traci O Connor

Traci O Connor

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Traci O Connor is the author of  the short story collection, Recipes for Endangered Species (Tarpaulin Sky Press). She’s published her writing in many journals and magazines and is currently at work on:  a collaborative film/book project about her Mormon childhood (based on Shell-Shaped Pieces of Bone),  a series of art dolls, a Burlesque novel, a live storytelling series, and the formation of a collaborative artist group called The Box Salon.  She lives in Athens, OH with her spouse—the writer Jackson Connor—their four children, a labradoodle,  and a “cat.”