Forks | E. Christopher Clark


After the funeral and the burial and the celebration of life where distant relations and overreaching parishioners drank his liquor cabinet dry, Andre found himself across the kitchen table from a girl whose index finger was buried deep in the cavern of her right nostril. She’d scrunched up her eyes and her nose, as if squeezing together the features of her face might make it easier to unearth the treasures inside her hollow head. Andre’s stomach churned at the sight, but he said nothing, even though he supposed it was now his place to do so.

The girl belonged to the wife that Andre had just put in the ground, a leftover from a marriage gone by, and she was now Andre’s by law. At least until she bled and curved out and he could pass her off to someone else. Maybe even get a dowry out of it, if he could get her to stop picking her goddamned nose.

“Not very ladylike,” he said, picking at his teeth with his thumb.

“It’s right there,” she said through gritted teeth, still digging.

Andre reached into the suit coat he’d hung over the back of his chair and produced a hankie. He held it across the table for her to take.

“What am I supposed to do with that?” she asked.

“Blow your nose,” he said.

“Never learned how,” she said, finally calling her finger back from the hunt.

“Never learned?” he said.

“Never,” she said, wiping her finger along the bodice of her dress, mucus smearing across the new black fabric.

“You put your nose into it and blow,” he explained, miming the action.

“That’s awful,” she said.

“And what you’re doing isn’t?”

The girl’s eyebrows ticked up upward ever so slightly as her painted lips trembled.

“What?” said Andre. “What did I say?”

“My mother,” said the girl, a pair of tears chasing each other down her cheek. “My mother taught me to do it this way.”

“I never saw her,” Andre began, but before he could finish, the girl stood up sharply from the table, her chair toppling backwards onto the floor, and she said:

“No, you didn’t.”

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