Cracked Leather

          I was born in the usual way.

          Daddy never was a talker, but he made me grow up sure and true and never beat me more than he had to. Momma, she was a real cow. We never spoke at all, but she gave her life for mine. That keeps me up late at night sometimes. I just hope I've done her proud.

          I remember watching Da stroke her smooth dead skin, what remained of it, with a gentle whoosh whoosh. I don't think he knew I saw, and soon after that I was given to a strong man with large feet, muscular calves and working hands.

          It was his hands I remember in that first moment, calloused and thick-fingered. He pulled down on my tongue to inspect my health and make sure I wasn't hiding any nasties. He found two thumbtacks and when he pulled them out he showed them laughingly to my father. I grew warm with embarrassment and early morning sun and quietly endured a more detailed examination before my new man took me away.

          I was scared the first time, of course I was. It took me a long time to soften to my man. I blame my mother for that, it wasn't like I had a choice. We sure as hell chafed and ached for a long while—why one time I even made him bleed. I remember that horrifying moment when I realized he was bleeding all over me, inside me. The world felt numb and distant as I waited, mute, to see what he would do. He limped away, door slamming behind him. I waited on the ground, not moving, not breathing. Feeling his blood seep into my pores.

          It was a long time until he returned. I waited, exactly where he had left me, aching with fear. When he returned he was surprisingly gentle. He made soft clicking sounds with his tongue and caressed me slowly, rubbing the blood away with a cloth and water. He felt me carefully with his hands and smiled with satisfaction when he found the hidden shard of glass: a fragment I had caught at a building site, hidden and then thrust into him at the most inconvenient time.

          After that he spent more time with me, working to smooth over the cracks that had formed in those rough and careless early years. Under his steady ministrations I became more pliant, supple, although sometimes I think he just did it so that he could push me harder. I still remember the tang of his blood, and those hurtful early cracks have never fully left me.

          We grew old together, clung together, my childish glow gone…and in time the warm umber of my maturity grew stiff and brittle. I became so tired, always tired. I could feel parts of myself drifting away, kept together by his desire, threads and patches. His hair became gray, his calves less muscular. Although trembling and yellowed, his hands held onto their thick-fingered strength. He could have cast me aside, his children urged him to find someone new, but I was like skin to him. I was his foundation and without him I was unable to stand—a flopping listless husk.

          I was with him when he died. I felt his body grow cold. I did not, could not leave. My mother and father would be proud. My man's children have made a promise and when the cold earth swallows him I shall go too. Forever paired to him, to decompose with him. They have not asked my opinion.

          I never had much of a choice, but that's life, the shape I was given, the form cut out for me. While this life has not been easy I do not want the darkness to take me. Looking back, his life has had its moments of joy and more than a few adventures. I do wish I could have kept that piece of glass. I will miss our early morning walks and gentle companionship of the dog. I will even miss the clumping clumsy shoves when his children borrowed me. I will miss the early morning sun warming my body and trickling through half-broken eyelets.

          Tomorrow my man will be buried, boots and all.









Liz Argall, creator of poetry, prose, comics, and song. Her work has been published in a range of journals and anthologies (mostly in Australia) including Meanjin, The Girls Guide to Guy Stuff, and Eat Comics. She is a freshly minted graduate of Clarion Writers Workshop 2009 (clarion.ucsd.edu/). Liz recently moved from Canberra, Australia to Portland, Oregon and adores creating and working in two countries. She thinks words matter and believes in the future. For additional information, visit www.lizargall.com.

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