Walking on Pins and Needles
Joshua A. Colwell | Joey To
My eyes aren’t as blue as they used to be. They’re weathered and dull, not like when I was young. People used to comment on my eyes. They used to tell me I was beautiful, and my hair reminded them of strawberry patches. My father used to hold me and whisper in my ear that the freckles on my face mirrored the constellations in the night sky. I stopped getting those compliments after I got sick.
I was already in my room after we got back from the airport when I realized I grabbed mom’s suitcase by mistake. She insisted we have matching pink suitcases, because pink was my favorite color. It hadn’t been my favorite color since I was twelve, not since I needed my wheelchair. As I went to grab the case, I noticed a small red stain on the bottom right corner. I figured mother had one of those travel size bottles of shampoo and it spilled inside her suitcase. She always took those when we went on vacation. I didn’t find shampoo, or any travel items for that matter.
It was an old doll. She had bright blue eyes, strawberry-red hair and freckles so out of sorts with one another it was like someone sprinkled them on the way you would sprinkle salt over a dish. She was me in every way possible. Only this doll had a pin wedged in each leg at the thigh. I grabbed the end of one of the pins and twisted. There was an immediate twinge in my leg. A tickling itch that made its way down my thigh and into my calf. I twisted the other pin, and again, the same twinge reverberated throughout my leg.
I dug my hand back into the suitcase to see if there was anything else. I pulled out another doll. This once an exact replica of my mother, only with a pin in each cheek. It was her, only a younger version of the woman I knew. I twisted one of the pins and heard my mother scream from down the hall.
“Isabelle!” she shouted.
I could hear her heels barreling against the hardwood floor. She ran with purpose, she ran with fear, she ran like someone with something to hide. She threw open my door. Sweat beaded against her forehead and a bulbous pink lump now protruded from her cheek.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I pulled the pin out from the left cheek of the doll. Mother clutched her face and fell to the floor screaming. She cursed me with inaudible shrills that made the windows shake. Her face contorted and sagged on one side with a dough-like consistency. She pushed herself up with her arm and glared at me with glowing eyes.
“You have to understand,”. Her left eye started to dim “Magic is a two sided coin, my dead.” she said.
I reached down and pulled the pin out of one leg, then the other. My legs burned and felt like someone had doused them in fire. Slowly, feeling came back. My toes curled first, then the feeling crept back up the rest of my leg and it was like I was twelve again. I could feel everything.
“Isabelle,” she said, “I put you in that chair because magic always comes with a price. I had to keep the scales balanced. There had to be give as well as take, so I gave away your legs. Your father left me for a younger woman, a more beautiful one.,” She paused and pushed up the fleshy lump of skin that dropped from her face. “I found a way to make certain I would always be young and beautiful.”
Mother just sat against the mirror and stared at me. The skin of her face sagged and brushed against her shoulder.
“I am your mother,” she said, as if her throat were full of gravel.
Her eyes flickered like dying Christmas lights deep in their sockets. My legs trembled as I came to a stand. It was like riding a bike, I supposed. I walked over to her, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.
“You’re beautiful to me, mother. You are beautiful in the way a fire is beautiful to a forest.”
I pulled the second pin out. She curled into a ball, writhing in pain she contorted her body in ways that made her look like something out of a horror movie. She lay there on the floor, staring at the mushy flesh that sagged off her face onto the cherry hardwood.
I walked out of the door and out of the house, dolls in hand. I threw them into the trash, took one last look at the house, and decided I needed another vacation.