Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Stick A Fork In Me

Currie Alexander Powers


It was hot as hell outside Target. Wendy stood on the sidewalk by the loading zone, scanning the parking lot for Dean’s car. She couldn’t feel the fork in her arm, but every time she moved, it waved back and forth, pulling at her shoulder. The tines were embedded an inch deep, just below her elbow, in what should have been the flat muscle of her forearm.

The automatic doors whooshed open behind her, cold air swept out and wrapped around her sweating legs. A shadow moved towards her.

“Sweet Jesus.” The man stopped beside her and gaped at her arm. “You okay, lady?”

Wendy didn’t look at him. “I’m fine,” she said.

He stared at her face, as if trying to decide if she was a nut case or in shock.

“I’m fine,” Wendy said again.

The man put his hands up. She watched him walk across the parking lot, turning to look at her every few feet.

*

It was the dumbest thing. She’d been in the store, looking at flatware, holding the fork in her hand. Someone had dropped a bottle of olive oil on the floor and shoved the broken glass under the lip of the shelf. Wendy took a step, and her feet slid out from under her. The fork stayed vertical long enough for Wendy to land on it, the prongs spearing her forearm. She sat there, her jeans soaking up olive oil, and tried to pull the fork out. It wouldn’t budge. Her hand was slick with oil and kept slipping off the handle as she wiggled it, twisting it back and forth. She sighed and gave up. Calling management would involve explanations. She pulled out her cell phone and called Dean.

“I got a fork stuck in my arm.”

“How the hell did you do that?”

“I’m at Target. Can you come and get me?”

“You can’t drive yourself?”

“I have a fork stuck in my arm, Dean. People are starting to stare.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake…” Dean’s voice faded and he hung up.

*

Dean had moved from phase two into phase three about a month ago. Wendy missed phase one. It began after the accident.

When Wendy spotted Dean at B.B. King's down on Second Avenue a year ago, it was love at first sight. His initial coolness melted after a few drinks and when he took her back to the house he rented with two friends from college, despite his liquory clumsiness, the sex was explosive. His guilty face the next morning might have been a hangover or something else, but he asked her out again. Four dates later, he was cooling off. On the fifth date, he drank too much and started an argument in the car, his hands coming off the wheel thirty seconds too long to avoid the tree. Wendy torpedoed through the windshield. Her arm stayed behind.

When she opened her eyes in the hospital, Dean with there, weeping uncontrollably. He brought mounds of flowers every day. It was the way he looked at her that made the sacrifice tolerable, his eyes, eager to please. Are you in pain? What can I do? I’m so, so, sorry. Can you ever forgive me? Wendy thought about the saying, I’d sacrifice life and limb for you. She hadn’t meant to go quite that far.

“Just take care of me,” she said.

“You got it,” Dean said, fluffing her pillow.

That was phase one.

It lasted until Wendy got the prosthetic arm. It was pretty realistic looking, had a synthetic material that imitated skin and it fit the wing of her shoulder comfortably. Dean was interested in the arm at first. He just wouldn’t watch her take it off at night. If Wendy wanted to have sex, Dean made her leave it on. Then once, in the throes of passion, she hit him with the arm and broke his nose. He lost interest in sex. That’s when phase two began.

Dean retreated. When she talked to him, he didn’t look at her, didn’t even seem to be listening. He fell into a protracted silence. She found him sitting in the kitchen a few times, in the middle of the night, his face in his hands, crying silently. She made an extra effort to show him how little she missed the arm by cooking complicated dinners and cleaning the house every day. But the silence grew.

*

Phase three began hopefully. Dean came out of isolation, full of energy. He seemed to notice every little thing she did. Had an opinion on everything, from the way she cooked to the way she cleaned the toilet. They started having spirited discussions before going to bed. Wendy would take off her arm and Dean would start.

“You know I hate watching you do that.”

“Should I go in the closet to do it?”

“I just don’t need you reminding me of it every two seconds.”

“Well excuse me.”

Wendy would get worked up, blood flowing to her wing, pounding and hot. She relished the sensation, how alive she felt with her veins expanding. The wing would start to flap, beating the air.

“Stop doing that!” Dean would yell.

“Come over here and make me,” Wendy challenged.

He never did.

*

The sun was full in the sky now, beating down on the sidewalk in front of Target like a klieg light. Wendy was thirsty. She looked at her watch. She’d been standing there for forty minutes.

She found a sliver of shade under the lip of the store and sat down on a red bench, the metal hot under her legs. She folded her arm and hid the fork with her hand.

An hour later she was still sitting there. She called Dean’s cell phone. It went to his voice mail immediately, meaning he’d turned his phone off.

Wendy went back in the store and walked to the hardware department. She picked up a pair of pliers and stuck them in her pocket.

In the restroom, she sat in a stall and wrestled with the pliers and the fork. The fork came loose and flew under the wall into the next cubicle. Fortunately, no on was using it.

She bought a large coke, took it outside and sat down on the bench again.

She called his cell six times in a row. It was still off.

She walked to her car, got in and sat with the A/C going full blast in her face, wondering if there was going to be a phase four.

When she parked in front of the house, she knew immediately he was gone. She opened the door and heard the emptiness echo inside.

The closet was empty and the bedroom was strewn with the evidence of a hasty packing job.

Wendy sat at the kitchen table, fingering the raised line of holes in her arm, rough little vacancies.

“Well, Dean,” she said out loud. “I stuck a fork in me. I guess I’m done.”

***

Currie Alexander Powers grew up in Toronto, Ontario. She spent 20 years as a musician, playing on records by Bruce Cockburn, Stephen Fearing, and Blackie and The Rodeo Kings. She started writing as a way of documenting the strange and colorful world of bars, bands, and the road. Moving to Nashville, she retired from performing and started writing seriously, publishing her first novel, Soul Of A Man. She is co-editor of Gathering: Writers of Williamson County.

© Currie Alexander Powers

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012