An Excerpt from “Breaking the Code”
There is something about an unbroken line that makes me want to rip it apart. All horizontal and level and yet one hit of acid and I detect only ripples, bending, rigorous expansion that doesn’t speak the language of the linear.
My mother had cancer. It was floating submarines that attached themselves to her ovaries. I am sixteen with the same oval glass face that stares my mother back at me.
The gray eyes, tightened lips and blonde long hair that rats up in knots on an elongated body that mom didn’t have. She used to work away at the knots that felt like gum stuck to my scalp while I screamed until she couldn’t take it anymore. She’d finally cut them out. I grew up with empty weed patches around my head that she tried to cover over with the remaining bush. Her hands were magicians.
I’d sulk around the house and tell her I was bored. “Baby, break the code,” she’d say. And a book would appear laid out on her long fingers. One I’d never seen before that had me swimming in a vast ocean of some strange girl I wanted to know and be while my mom sipped tea across the room absorbed in her other universe as far away from me as the sky.
My mom told truths. Her lips formed words like philosophers. She spoke in large circles that moved inward like a labyrinth and I would follow the spiral as far as I could until I got lost. “Baby, listen to the voices that walk inside of you. They will always lead you to those places you don’t want to go. We always have something to say about someone else. Sew that pattern up in someone else’s housedress and move toward the sharks.”
Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirty anthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.