Raggedy Ana Does It Again

Why does she do this to herself? Her arms are so pretty so shiny and squeaky clean skin soft like lovers say and here she lies in a bed of roses or rose drops or blood drops in a bathtub or red ties on the metal rails of a hospital bed.

…Mom Dad Someone

We’re right here, darling.

You are

Yes, can’t you see us?

I can see I don’t know what I’m seeing where am I how and why am I tied I don’t like

You tried to do it again, sweetheart.

I did

Yes.

How this time

The same as usual.

No different

No.

No change

No.

And she starts to laugh, the maniacal laughter that comes from being found freshly alive in a heapful of bodies, all the ones that live in her head, all with her face on them. But none of the others go the way she can, they’re all mangled or strangled or squashed against concrete or cartop or poisoned with malaise and arsenic but she, the one found alive no matter how far she burrows down into the heap is the only one who can’t get it right, too enamored with the process to let it go all the way.

Have I been here long

No, hon, only a couple of days. I miss you, though.

Are you sleeping with her already

No! Why would I do that? I love you. Only you.

You won’t not for long trust me

Yes, I will.

Okay

She will heal again, one sealed stitch at a time, a rag doll more than anything, dragging on everyone’s nerves, grating their elephantine skin and peeling their waxen faces and breaking them until they’ve broken her to fix her and put her back together again like a watch without a face and only the hands┬ámoving correctly, finally, until the next time someone, her most likely but sometimes someone else, accidentally or on purpose reaches into the clock and wrenches the hands up and out and breaks them, or twists them the wrong way until the time is all gone and out of shape.

Hello is anyone there

I knew you’d leave all of you proved you right didn’t I

Oh there you are you just don’t want to talk because you’re crying

…yes.

The last one lasted longer than you you’re leaving now aren’t you

…yes.

Okay

And she will still heal again, and it won’t matter how many times she is broken and picks herself up again, or gets picked up again, or has the crows pick her clean as carrion again, she will always go back to the old scars, she doesn’t pick new ones, it’s been long enough that she has her favorite places where things open again and open so well and so tasty, the blood melts in her mouth like curry, pudding, chocolate cake with candles in it. Burning the roof of her mouth. Scorching her until she laughs again for no good reason other than the swallowed cigarette trick she remembers from an old black and white movie and always imagined must have felt like this.

Good morning. How are you feeling?

Cat got your tongue?

Oh, I see. Yes, I see. That’ll definitely sting for a few days. But it’ll heal. The mouth is the fastest part of our bodies to heal, did you know that?

It’s because of all the blood vessels there. The mouth is very resilient.

hith ith

Better you try not to speak until it heals, sugar. The doctor will come later and see if we can remove these ties, okay?

Oh ey

Good girl. Or woman, I should say, shouldn’t I? Forty-six, you’re as old as my oldest daughter.

That’s right. Just buzz if you need water or anything. It’ll heal fast, I promise.

Squirt

The worst fantasy usually came around four o’clock, with an hour to go before the end of his shift. Kneeling on the carpet, gut hanging like a bowling ball bag over the belt holding his uniform from falling off his skinny haunches, Bob squirted cleaning solution onto the coffee-colored stain. Hours ago, it smelled like coffee, too, but so many people had walked on it by now that it smelled of lint and shoes. Someone walked on a dog’s little surprise too, Bob was pretty sure. His nostrils were sensitive, kept clear by the burning mist that rose from the red-bodied, purple-nozzled bottle in his hand.

The fantasy, the worst one, was intimately concerned with this nozzle. It was plum-purple, with a white twisting square on the end that shifted from OPEN to CLOSED position. Bob pictured himself turning the nozzle towards him and sticking it into his mouth, potent as a pistol. He saw himself squirting over and over, could almost taste what he usually only smelled, the sickly sweet chemicals landing in great white droplets on his tongue and sudsing-up as he’d begin to cough, the mist crawling into his lungs and bubbling there lethally. It would be a slow, painful death, if it even killed him. If he lived, he’d get fired, for sure, and he’d get sent to the hospital where Medicaid would need to cover him because his bank account wouldn’t be able to cover an ambulance fee, let alone a hospital stay.

His knees ached and his elbows felt like rusty hinges as he rubbed his white rag over the coffee-stain, pointlessly. It would take baking-soda to draw out the stain, but they wouldn’t give him any. They insisted on him using the same liquid cleaner for everything, from wood to glass to plastic. He leaned back and pulled mucus back into his throat, feeling the wetness curl down his throat. It was five after four. He had another fifty-five minutes. He had a coffee stain to get out. His large, pregnant-seeming stomach rumbled.

He leaned forward, and squirted some more onto the brain stain.