Skin by Meg Sefton

“This must the least favorite part of your body,” said the manicurist, rubbing a rose scented cream into the woman’s hand. The manicurist’s eyes traveled up to the woman’s neck and rested on her face. “In fact, your whole right side is damaged.” The manicurist gave her some cream to take home.

The manicurist was not exaggerating. On the back of her wrist was a long purple scar where she had surgery to remove a ganglion cyst. It looked like some kind of backwards suicide attempt. There was a puckered white patch on a knuckle where she burned her hand ironing her husband’s shirt on his first day of work. Her pinkie had suffered third degree burns from the hot glue gun when she was helping her son make Gandalf for a Tolkien diorama. There was a slash on her neck where another cyst had been removed. There was a sprinkling of hypopigmentation on the right side of her face, a result of pregnancy that no amount of makeup could hide.

She used the cream. It worked. She looked nothing like herself.

She freaked out. She slashed the back of her wrist and the base of her neck. She burned her knuckle with an iron. She covered her pinkie with hot glue. She dotted her check with household bleach. She took herself to the emergency room and said she had been tortured, and no, she did not know her assailant.


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Filed under Meg Sefton, Quenby Larsen

15 responses to “Skin by Meg Sefton

  1. Al McDermid

    Sure didn’t see that coming, especially the last line. Nicely done.

    • Quenby Larsen

      I’m glad you liked it Al! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Al McDermid

        Been reading all of the other comments, particularly about explaining too much, but perhaps one sentence after either ‘She looked nothing like herself.’ or ‘She freaked out.’ would do the trick. Have to admit that I didn’t see what you were going for, but I think that’s just me not read deeply enough.

        • Quenby Larsen

          Thanks for the thoughts/idea here, Al. You hit the spot in the story where I wrestled with myself: How much to say/explain.

          The wrestle continues.


  2. This is a very disturbing story about a deeply disturbed woman. Where did this idea come from? So she is her own least favourite person? She can’t bear to be loved? She has that disease where she likes scarring herself or having limbs removed? Whew! The last paragraph is a short and dusted ride.

    • Quenby Larsen

      It might be a little bit too conceptual an idea to pull off, but I was driving at more of a concept, and in a very short space: In consumer cultures, or where women’s beauty is revered above all else, for example, we can’t imagine that all women might not prize that too.

      But her scars did have something to do with her memories and actually, her identity. I did not intend it to be a negative piece, actually. She just wants to go back to who she was.

      So I’m explaining too much so it may not work.

      Thank you for the insightful comments, Matt. Very much appreciated.

  3. A wild ride here, all based on our presumptions of what this character has gone through and how we–but not she!–would react. Nice.

  4. I thought that she would have preferred her scars all along, since the way she received them were from pleasant memories. I certainly didn’t see the ending coming. Disturbing!

    • Quenby Larsen

      Yeah, disturbing for sure, but intended to provoke a deeper read. I really like what you said about the scars. That’s definitely what I was aiming toward. Thank you!

      • Quenby Larsen

        Well, a little bit disturbing. A kind of black humor or absurdism was intended. OK. Now I am definitely explaining too much.

  5. Kelly Grotke

    I laughed – the build-up was subdued and you tricked me a bit with the catalogue of disfigurements to expect something else, so then I just couldn’t help myself when I reached your ending. a pleasure, if that’s the right way of putting it…

  6. Convoluted story, and I mean that in the best way. So many ways to interpret. My take — this woman valued something more than ‘beauty’ which is, after all, skin deep. What she valued was choice.

    Lots of social issues packed in this. Love it. Peace…

  7. Pingback: Week #25 – least favorite « 52|250 A Year of Flash

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