Unzipped by Sheri Reynolds


Sheri Reynolds is the 2nd place winner of Streetlight‘s Flash Fiction Contest
Black and white photo of nude woman bent over
Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

The garbage disposal made a horrible racket, a gritty, grinding, clonking commotion. Avocado pit, she thought, and reached for the off-switch just as a knife flew up from the sink’s black hole. It was a paring knife, the one with the slender purple handle, silver blade so thin and sharp that the gleam still shined in her eye as it hit her throat, bull’s eye, like her throat had been its one true target.

She’d been making guacamole to take to book club and still imagined plunging her hand into the turned-off disposal to retrieve the slick ball as the sharp taste of lime lit in her mouth. She peered into the disposal’s hole, half-expecting a tiny knife-thrower hiding beneath the rubber flaps, a circus act right there in her plumbing.

At first, the wound was bloodless. Puzzling. Not like a stabbing; more like a flick—a flick in the throat—like the bully on the school bus who flicked when she passed down the aisle looking for a seat. It seemed that wrong, and her heartbeat kicked against the insult of the blade.

She scanned the counter for her phone, but it was nowhere nearby. Hold still, she told herself, realizing that when she looked left, the blade cut right, and when she looked right, the blade cut left. Which was better, right or left? Or was it cutting up and down?

The blade became a hand on her clock. She didn’t know which direction she turned, couldn’t tell a minute from an hour. Danie was picking her up for book club, but when? She had the guacamole, but she couldn’t remember the story. It must be time.

The knife was buried to its hilt. She knew not to remove it. She traced the trickle of blood to the shallow hollow where her collarbones met, and then she was woozy and understood she was going to drop. She found the floor with her knees, guiding herself along the side of the cabinet, her neck stiff as a corpse. Her neck would be the first part to die.

Somehow she made it to her side. Spit or swallow? She didn’t know. Stay still or scoot to the door? The floor needed sweeping, wisps of garlic skins, flecks of cilantro and dust. No matter now.

Stay awake, she warned herself. Danie would be there soon. But she wasn’t sure she’d ever been awake. A black frame appeared around everything, even her thoughts.

This is not a picture to hang, she thought. Then she hung it.

She looked down at the picture of herself on the floor, knife in her neck, and she understood that the hilt was her zipper-pull. If she unzipped her throat, what might escape? Words she should have said? A laugh she’d been holding back all her life?

It was funny, suddenly, such an obvious discovery: you can put a zipper in anything. Even a story. Even a life. Zipping up, zipping down, as you wish.

Sheri Reynolds
Sheri Reynolds is the author of seven novels, including The Rapture of Canaan and The Tender Grave. She teaches at Wofford College, where she serves as Cobb Chair of Humanities, and divides her time between Spartanburg, S.C. and Virginia’s eastern shore. Find more of her work on www.sherireynolds.com.

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