Amanda Nicole Corbin has had her short fiction published in journals such as Ellipsis, The Vehicle, Boston Literary, Paper Nautilus, Superstition Review, Thrice Magazine, and others. She is editor and founder of Pure Coincidence Magazine, living in SLC with thirty bottles of hot sauce.
Ever since the news, Madeline pretends the hands she pampers don’t belong to people. They are landscapes. Thoughts of boney mountains, pipeline vessels, and desert floors cracked from washing dishes carry her up into the atmosphere, where her touch beautifies the land of an immortal earth—not the saggy skin of visitors who no
longer acknowledge birthdays. She came in on her day off.
Envy drags Madeline to a nail station as a woman with aged, wind-blown skin enters the salon. The woman selects a vibrant polish and sits, speaking through her wrinkles like fleshy Braille. Her hands tremble. Madeline steadies them for her, as though man can halt earthquakes. The woman offers a smile in gratitude.
“What’s your secret?” Madeline asks about the woman: her nail beds, her smile, her vibrancy.
The woman’s face grows an expectant grin, like a parent divulging St. Nick’s real identity. Or God’s. “Would it make a difference if I told you?” Madeline answers by scraping the overgrown cuticles she’s deemed algae blooms: growth from an abundance of nutrients. The woman continues, “Think about the answer you would want to give me.” Her hands are cold, damp earth.
Silent minutes pass as Madeline coats the woman’s nails until she asks, “Did you ever have one of those butterfly kits as a kid?”
“Of course,” she answers. “Did you?”
Madeline shakes her head. She pictures swallows nesting inside the small, puckered pores of the woman’s fingers. The birds are fat and well fed. The azure-tinted veins flow and supply the mosquitoes the birds eat, like saviors.
As Madeline rings her up, the woman asks, “Did you decide?”
“Not yet,” Madeline confesses. But after work, she drives to the aquarium and wastes two hours guessing the life spans of the cephalopods trapped behind handprint-smeared glass.