about the author

Sabrina Stoessinger’s fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals, both online and in print. Most recently she’s been spotted in Corium Magazine, DOGZPLOT, Contemporary Verse 2, filling Station, White Rabbit Quarterly, and Everyday Genius. Her story “Black Summer” is one of the Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions of 2011.

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The Anatomy of a Meal

Sabrina Stoessinger

They replaced her pinky fingers with tiny dill pickles. At breakfast it was pork sausage, cheap skinny links fashioned into prosthetics and slippery with grease. Three times a day she’d devour the pyramid-portioned meals her mother cooked and wash them down with heavy, thick milk. Racing outside after her plate passed inspection, she’d run the three blocks to my house and breathe loudly at the door, pushing invisibly against my neck and urging me to hurry.

She’d lost the fingers before she was born. Doc Nevins said her fingers were never there and that the stork musta forgot them back at his nest. We’d spent our early years in trees together, checking all the birds’ nests, looking for any sign of baby fingers. She kept a little pouch tied to the belt loops on her jeans every day just in case she found them. Then one night at the dinner table her brother Sam said the French fries looked like fingers and Maggie said she was bored of tree-climbing and maybe we should ride bikes instead.

From then on she ate only fingers made of carrots and cheese, French toast sticks and slivers of apple, elongated grapes, celery slathered in peanut butter, digit-sized chicken strips and anything else Mrs. Fenley could create in her kitchen. When Maggie heard that milk helped your bones to grow she demanded it at every meal and when her mother wasn’t looking, Maggie would soak her hands in it pushing everything down to the bottom of the glass and wishing for the smallest lump when she pulled them back out.

Some days I taped my pinky fingers behind my ring fingers and pretended I was Maggie. I would stare at my hands and tilt them, removing the knuckles and joints Maggie was without. Sometimes I forgot to take the tape off and she would see it twisted around my fingers and frown. She wondered why I wanted what she didn’t, how I could give up her most prized possession so easily but I could never answer her. Instead I would run to my mother and ask for three dollars, wiping away my tears with the sleeves of my T-shirt while she rummaged in her purse. I would tuck the money safely into my front pocket and me and Maggie would ride silently to the grocery store on our bikes. She would wait outside on the curb while I went in and bought her favourite cookies and then we would sit together all afternoon and eat an entire box of ladyfingers.

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