Jumpcuteye by Mark A. McCutcheon

A May Monday evening: windy, which isn’t unusual for Edmonton; and warm, like 25°C warm, which is. You’re parked curbside under tall elms reaching towards each other over the boulevard, waiting for your girls at their music lessons. A teen passes your car on the sidewalk, reading her phone like you were reading yours before she hooked your eye. She wears a ballcap, a shortsleeve buttondown, denim cutoffs, and Converse sneakers. Sporting hornrims, dyed blonde pigtails, and a plush bunny backpack, she could be in junior high or in university, you don’t know. You’re struck by how pale she is, pale as babypowder, luminous, nearly translucent. You notice the bandage on her right knee, and then you see, from her knee up to her shorts, the countless little lateral cuts razored red and pink across her white thigh. Like eyes pretending to be closed while they watch you steal that hard candy. Like pursed lips waiting to open and accuse. Like the lines on forms over which you write your name, your number, your crime. Openly worn, proudly borne, those cuts slash your eye like old film. You see her again while driving your girls home, elsewhere; she’s out on the sidewalk of the thoroughfare, smiling, with a boy a head taller than her. His hair’s short enough for military, he wears a plaid flannel shirt, jeans, his arm drapes lankily across her shoulders. You can’t tell whether his fingers hold razors or gauze or mere mammal warmth. They’re walking to the bus stop. Maybe your girls saw her too. Maybe she’s one of them in say seven years. Driven by wind towards night, the cloudless evening light sharpens everything’s edges.

Mark A. McCutcheon is from Toronto; he lives in Edmonton and teaches English literature at Athabasca University. Mark’s poems and short stories are published or forthcoming in literary magazines like On Spec, EVENT, UnLost, Existere, and subTerrain. His literary criticism appears in The Explicator, Continuum, Extrapolation, and other scholarly journals.