Devil’s Lake

Fall 2011 Issue

Venita Blackburn: In the Middle of Everything There Are Ribbons of Light

1,277. That’s how many hairs are on my arm, I tell the doc, up to the elbow. The doc looks up at my wife and me. We both have that bruised cantaloupe feeling, you know. At one point everything is just right and then it all falls off the counter. Your daughter is special, he tells us. My baby girl never liked men in white jackets. The doc’s collar is always bleach bright. His bottom teeth show when he talks too, so I don’t trust him either. We knew autistic meant you got a bad vaccine and will never make friends. The doc tells us we’re wrong in every way. Have you heard the term idiot savant, he asks. My wife stands up bones-on-fire mad. She’s big as a ten-year-old boy with a crocodile soul, snaps hard at the whole sky sometimes. Once at a traffic stop I hit the brakes too hard and some poor dummy slammed into me. Well that poor dummy got out of his truck with a twinkling baseball bat. Before I could speed off quick, my wife jumped out with nothing but her flip-flops and a mouth. She spit all hell and unholy mischief and disparaged that poor dummy back into his little truck. Your daughter is gifted, the doc says. He talks lizard-legs quick to calm my wife. He doesn’t mean idiot like poor dummy. He meant my baby girl has special abilities. Can she bend spoons and shit with her thoughts, my wife asks. No. I knew that. When my baby girl counted my arm hairs, I knew she got it right. She had that look that was all business, and it scared my wife. So we have to talk to men that me and baby girl don’t like. My baby girl likes to count and not much else. She told me numbers have colors and shapes. She said every single thing looks like a number. I’m 117. Apples are 88. My wife is 9 and 26. She got to be two numbers because she changes. Baby girl said everybody’s number stretches out like a shoelace or a bowtie and bounces back. Sometimes the number is so bright she can’t stand it and cries. I guess that’s why my wife is scared. When we weren’t looking, someone we knew counted up the whole world, saw inside each bit, and it was nothing like we thought it would be.

a photo of the author, Venita Blackburn VENITA BLACKBURN originally earned her MFA from Arizona State University in 2008. Her recent stories have appeared or are forthcoming in American Short Fiction magazine, Faultline Journal, Bellevue Literary Review, Feathertale Review, and for audio download through Bound Off and Sniplits. Other honors include finalist for the 2010 Indiana Review fiction prize and finalist in the 2011 Open City RRofihe Trophy Short Story Contest. She teaches in Arizona and plays guitar for her dog Butterbean when he's bored. More from this issue >