First Place Winner
Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 Contest — August ’09
The cancer made it hard to hate Della Lowery, which was a shame. I enjoyed hating her.
Twelve years ago, on my first day, she had looked at the peace sign tattoo on my foot and asked, “Do you regret that yet?”
“Don’t worry. You will.” She had put her hand to her chest, a heart of some kind pounding beneath those enormous cantaloupe breasts of hers. “I’m so glad my Angela never fell for that fad.”
Later, partly to spite her, I got a second tattoo, a bird on my shoulder. It wasn’t just her insults or her money, it was the way she assumed that all of us looked up to her. We didn’t.
The cancer was ovarian. When Della came in, she said, “I want it off. All of it.”
I had streaked her matronly bob with highlights during President Clinton’s first term; until now, that had been her most daring request.
She picked up a tabloid magazine. The storm outside rattled the front window. “I have lovely scarves.”
I picked up the clippers.
Della didn’t look until I finished.
“Well,” she said.
Her scalp was pale and smooth. A ridge of skin folded at the base of her neck like a marine’s.
We both pretended she wasn’t a thing to be pitied.
I almost told her she was right, that I had come to regret my tattoos. Other things, too. But I kept my mouth shut. Some things, you keep to yourself.
Sharon E. Trotter is a freelance writer. Her column, “Gen X Mama,” is featured monthly in Western Illinois Family magazine. She has won numerous awards from the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association and the Illinois Press Association.
This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.
Tags: cancer, Sharon E. Trotter, String-of-10