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Speaking Marks
By Ethan Johnson

My body is covered in unique markings that tell stories of where I’ve been. The back of my left leg yammers on about a young boy running through the woods near his house and not noticing the tangled barbed wire next to an old, rotting fence post. It could have been much worse—I escaped with a few scratches.

My right forearm and wrist speak the tale of a kid whose dog hadn’t quite learned to play nice yet. Below my belly button, a long mark prattles on about a hernia surgery four years ago. My forehead sports a scar as well, screaming about a five-year-old boy taking a tumble down three cement steps, or so I’m told. On the inside of my lip, lower left portion, a scar whispers the story of a nasty case of chickenpox in second grade.

My favorite story is the one told by the scar on my left thumb, running alongside and then down past the nail. It preaches about the irresponsibility of a Boy Scout who, having just received his first pocketknife, wanted nothing more in the world than to be a master woodcarver. That dream died three slices into a hunk of wood. The dull knife slipped. Blood leaked onto the blade and into the wood, giving it a kind of natural finish. The Boy Scout tried his best to cover it with a handkerchief, not wanting others to see his immediate failure. Though they may have noticed, nothing was said. The mark the knife left would turn into a badge, one he could run his fingers along for comfort. A sort of pacifier. A kind of friend.

But the scar that has the most to say is the one no one can see. If people listen closely though, they can hear it, too. This scar doesn’t have one story to tell, rather it has many. Tales of embarrassment, of worry, of anxiety.

This is the scar that makes sleeping a struggle, eating a chore, socializing a hassle, and turns new experiences into nightmares. I call it worry. Nervousness. It’s always there, in the pit of my stomach, in the back of my head, sometimes everywhere. Anxiety. It keeps people distant by keeping me distant. I worry about tomorrow, today, yesterday, next year, the year after, ten years from now, twenty. Am I a failure, will I be a failure, what if I’m a disappointment, what if I’m not worthy? Did I leave the oven on, is this person talking to me, about me? What if everything I know to be true is a lie? The scar that talks the most is the one that no one can see.

***

 

Marks of Play

By Sarah Stauffer

Lucky was an Australian Shepard, Blue Heeler mix. He was pure white with chestnut-brown eyes and nose to match. We ventured outside one day in early summer. The yard smelled of lilacs and cut grass. I would run and Lucky would chase, my light blonde hair bouncing as I leapt. I tackled Lucky and the two of us fell to the ground, his silk-like fur entwining with grass as we landed.

Soon I discovered a sizable stick, perfect for playing fetch (or keep-away). I wound up my ineffectual muscles and threw the stick about eight feet. Lucky bounded after it and refused to relinquish his control over the stick—I would have to earn it. I chased Lucky and we grappled over the stick. I emerged victorious after twisting the stick farther than Lucky’s neck would allow his head to turn. It was time for keep-away on my terms.

I held the stick high in the air, as high as I could reach, and above Lucky’s head. He knew this game. He jumped up onto two legs and tried to wrap his front paws around my outstretched arm. Whether the jump was mistimed or my arm poorly placed doesn’t matter. I felt a long, strong claw work its way across my arm.

It didn’t hurt much and bled just enough to scab. It shouldn’t have scarred, but my sharp, young finger nails could not leave the healing coverage alone. The cut left a thin, inch long white scar through the edge of a light brown mole on my right arm. It was my first permanent battle wound.

I guess you could call it my Lucky scar.

***

 

Obtuse

By Whitney Jackson

I keep my forearm face up because I like the way the darkened skin jumps out at me. Its small, pointed shape reminds me of the smell of hot flesh and the violent tingle of the cold water I let flow from the faucet until a thin layer of new skin stretched itself across the indentation on the inside of my left arm.

I imagine ways it got there.

Fabulous Explanation #1:  In the quiet of night, I picture myself and a few others around the heat of a fire. Our bitterly chilled fingers grasp for the warmth the flame offers. A dense log is tossed onto an already heaping pile of wood, and a dark shadow makes the mistake of getting too close. A spark catches. Obscenities can be heard over the snap and pop of the fire as the shadow curses at the kiss to their hand. We all take a step back, not wishing to receive the same romantic gesture from the fire, but one of us doesn’t get the memo.

I leap toward the being, hoping to save him from the sparks that are rising up to meet his flesh. Just as I lunge, a crackle erupts, and I am burned by the embers that have flown high into the sky.

Fabulous Explanation #2:  In the early moments of dawn, I imagine myself helping a family member fix the broken jargon associated with his motorcycle. The exhaust pumps loudly as the motorcycle is turned on, and I cringe.

Something hangs loosely off here.

Needs to be replaced there.

Careful.

Don’t touch.

I touch.

My arm twists sideways and hurts, but the steamy skin melting away across the rest of my flesh hurts more. Something cool and slimy is smeared across the tiny shape that has formed itself awkwardly on the inside of my arm. It’s tender, but I smooth the thick, white mess across each edge, over and over again.

The lies I come up with for the story of the scar I love are experimentation in a field of well-oiled verbiage.

I hold my forearm to the sky, showing off my most prized possession.

***

 
Ethan Johnson is an undergraduate student at Bemidji State University. Sarah Stauffer is finishing up a degree in creative and professional writing at BSU with the goal of becoming a children’s book author and illustrator. Whitney Jackson is an English BA and BFA double major with a passion for travel, television, and everything chocolate.