An excerpt from “Make the Mark” by Trevor Dodge, appearing in Fall 2013 (Vol. 60.1).
We’re in the ER but there’s no blood, nothing broken. When they check my wife in they ask her the part about rating her pain on a scale of 1-10. The mousy woman with horn-rimmed glasses and skin so pale it’s nearly transparent was the one who asked. My wife blinked her brown eyes at the mouse a few times without answering, pausing long enough for the mouse to ask it again. Both of them looked at me, and I empathized more with the mouse. I felt sorry for her because she wasn’t going to be able to unhear what my wife said in response; she could ignore my wife’s fidgety toe tap which held perfectly in time with the tic tic tic of her false fingernails on the slick countertop; she could ignore my wife’s defensive stance and posture, her arms pretzeled around and in between each other so tightly her forearms had started to purple and swell; she could ignore my wife’s breath, starchy and salty like a truck driver who’d spent all night snarfing Lay’s potato chips and downing Mtn. Dew to keep awake.
What she couldn’t ignore were the words wrapped inside that halitosic blanket, the ones my wife said as meekly as she could to the mouse, volume not even a 1 on the 10 scale, more like a .5 or .3, the ones that came out slow and careful like a child trying to walk across a busy intersection on the way to her first day of school.
“I think I want to kill myself.”