Fiction · 01/01/2014

Rubies

Two things I have noticed. If you place a bowl on a shelf, even high up and what you imagine to be out of the way, it will eventually contain something: a desiccated spider, a moth, a bleached ladybug.

The other is that the skin receives the cat’s claws as though expecting them. The strikes barely show.

Except for one cut on your hand that bleeds a single ball at the end, a coagulated stop. Red indescribably deep — not the usual pinot noir or old rose, but something uncultivated, subterranean. Liquid shadow. We are hardly new.

I will come back to the bowl.

I bought a set of knives with a wooden block that houses them because you had complained about dullness.

Two eight inch chef knives, two paring knives, a serrated knife, a honing steel.

The knives are so sharp compared to the old ones that after chopping onions and peeling apples, I found shallow cuts on my hands. I didn’t notice them until the lemon juice.

My hands are lit with tiny slashes and none of them bleed. I hold my hands in front of me, fingers splayed, waiting for the pain to evaporate.

I noticed that there is no other noticing. The fineness of the cuts, so slivery and minute, besieges that animal brain, the primeval knob that puts us on the savannah or the river bank, alerted.

I staggered into the present moment, with these stupid little cuts, hauling the surprise of how secretly they were made. Oh, to be that sharp.

You found a dead mouse once, curled in a ruby-colored glass bowl. The bowl had convex sides that sank to a tiny well. A gift from your mother.

The mouse fit snugly, its pale and spidery digits tucked against the fur (the scratching sound contained in the living room wall comes to mind, a frantic heart).

Like a Victorian, you took its photograph. I imagined the mouse sliding in, perhaps to get the spider or the moth, and his conundrum, the red of his understanding.

Maybe he watched the room through the saturated glass, the bowl’s curve.

I wondered how he had scaled the glass to start with or if he’d just dropped in, as a baby mouse had once dropped onto my chest when I was doing the laundry in the basement. I hid the traps you set after that.

Perhaps he had used a nearby stack of the tax forms you’d been working on (muttering that if only you had death, you’d have the complete set) and simply stepped over, slid down the ramp into what would become his coffin.

Waited there for the end to come, in the most beautiful red he had ever seen.

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Maria Mutch’s fiction and essays have appeared in Guernica, Ocean State Review, Bayou Magazine and Literary Mama, among others. Her first book, Know the Night, is forthcoming in 2014 from Simon & Schuster and Knopf Canada.