Dactylography

Howard had left the window open. It was early still, but the space beside Elizabeth in bed was cool. She rolled over and put her face on his pillow, breathing in the ghost scent of his hair, the sweat that had lingered on his scalp. The morning air came in through the window, bringing in the clanking of cowbells, the voices of a brother or a cousin, that nearly overpowered the curtains’ whisper against the windowsill. Elizabeth turned her head and listened to the organdy swish. She wondered where Howard was: the chicken coop? the barn? the garage? She heard the engine of a tractor turn over and she wondered whether she had long overslept, whether Howard would have let her do so.

Elizabeth put her feet over the side of the bed. When she stood her toes kissed the cool wooden floor and left a piece of her behind with each brush of skin against wood. She went to the dresser and pulled her hair back, then went to the window.

Howard was standing in the front yard, arms crossed over his chest, watching Lou, who knelt next to the tractor and fussed with the front wheels. The engine hummed, and some part of Elizabeth quivered with the thought of some unexpected mechanical motion that would sever Lou’s fingers. Howard looked unconcerned, but Elizabeth grazed her own fingertips with her thumb, feeling the padded skin there, fleshy and grooved. She wondered whether siblings’ fingerprints might resemble one another’s, whether dactylography had anything to say about sisterly compassion.

The breeze turned then and the curtains pressed–if organdy can be said to weigh anything–against her. Howard looked up at her, uncrossed his arms to wave.

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