I’d Know Your Skin Anywhere

by | December 2020 B (Day 1)

Darlene is missing. I hadn’t seen her since yesterday at lunch. She had been moody, playing with her food, and acting like I didn’t exist. In better times we’d get along gangbusters, her hanging on me so close until I couldn’t breathe and me telling her how beautiful her dark brown eyes are. We understand each other, Darlene and I. After my shifts at the hospital, after all the frantic bodies and shouts down hallways, I can pour out my heart to Darlene as she sits like a statue listening as if my heartbeat is the only sound in the world. Then we curl up together tight as a Gordian knot. Darlene might be cold-blooded but she is my only friend. My search takes me through the house past her usual sitting place in the living room, a driftwood log I sanded and polished for her. I stop. The heat lamp is off. I must’ve forgotten to switch it on when I left for my shift. I turn on the light, throwing the living room into sharp relief. A scrap of silky white glows on the carpet. Darlene. She must be shedding. Darlene. Is that why she’s been so moody? I move to pick up the shed skin and see another scrap in the hallway out to the garage. I follow the trail of skin into the garage. The garage door is wide open. Darlene’s outgrown skin lies in a path past the mailbox. She’s gone. It’s over. We’re over. We grew apart, it’s my fault I tell myself. Holding in my tears press the clicker for the garage door as dusk settles on a world full of beating hearts that are not mine.

7 Comments

  1. Benjamin Niespodziany

    “her hanging on me so close until I couldn’t breathe” hits different when you read it a second time! Great flash fiction. I was completely within this story. Loved the a-ha moment (for me, at ‘driftwood log’), but even more loved the sorrow that closes the curtain. The last line is a true stunner. Nicely done.

  2. Jesse Wilson

    I’m a long ago reptile owner and feel pretty sure that’s what you’re talking about (“driftwood log I sanded”..sweet) so I felt it, in a nice way, but I don’t know what a Gordian knot or what animal Darlene is or what happened exactly, and I was confused by all the tense-changing.

  3. Bud Smith

    I really liked this, I am so sorry the narrator lost their pet, but you set up how it all went down so masterfully. I am left wondering what happens at the end of the story? Does the narrator go on some wild and crazy search for this lizard? When I begin to think where the lizard could be I am thinking it must be headed somewhere warm. The warm object can be local … a fireplace in a pub, or it can global, a volcano in the south pacific, or it could even be off the surface of this earth, the lizard could be hitching a ride on a space shuttle to try and get to the surface of the sun. But also, the escape of the lizard has been prompted by the coldness of the narrator in itself (not to point fingers) but the line, “her hanging on me so close until I couldn’t breathe” is very telling and very exciting. It is as if the lizard has broken up with its owner because the owner could not make room in her life for the emotional needs of the lizard and henceforth the lizard has voyaged out to become its own master. That’s really thrilling. I think there’s a third act in this story yet to be written. I’d love to read it

  4. Greg Oldfield

    Silas,
    I enjoyed the shedding clarity of this relationship, and the minor details that lead us closer to the truth. Perhaps humanizing their relationship further, minimizing some of the more obvious references, and withholding the truth to very end will offer a greater bang at the climax. Make us believe that Darlene is a lover, a soon-to-be ex growing apart, and I think the emotion will match the structure you displayed so well.

  5. Bill Merklee

    Nicely done. I assume Darlene is a snake (Gordian knot, cold-blooded, the driftwood, the heat lamp, the shedding), maybe a constrictor (couldn’t breathe). I like the idea of possibly withholding the snake clues until a little later. The only other change I’d suggest is cutting “We’re over. We grew apart, it’s my fault I tell myself.” The final line in killer, regardless of the species.

  6. Rachel Pollon Williams

    I love the conceit of this. I didn’t get that it was a lizard…or snake? (- sorry, do not know much about this world!) until very near the end. When I read it through the second time I was struck more by the heat lamp. Maybe something more there – Darlene heat seeking? I love how all of it parallels the dissolving of any kind of relationship and if you wanted to could delve into the parallels further. Could maybe find out more about the narrator – what makes her attracted to a reptile for a pet? Less responsibility, less needs? I suppose the difference between lizards and snakes is the connotation of a snake being untrustworthy or crafty, a threat… not sure if there’s anything in there to play with. Bottom line, this drew me in and I want to know more!

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