portion of artwork for Charles Lennox's story

Touching the Spine
Charles Lennox

This is the boy I know. You think you know this boy but you do not. He drinks strawberry lemonade from a coffee mug and does something like four hundred sit-ups in bed. He walks around the house in jeans and no shirt and stands a certain way whenever he sees himself in the mirror, hands on his bony hips, everything about him tight like rope. Then he caresses his stomach and says to the smooth glass, Feel the steel.

Tuesday is meatloaf night. Tuesday is when mother decides to no longer call this boy I share a room with by his first name. I have already forgotten it. He is just this boy to me. The one that grows taller as he sleeps. Who does something like seven hundred sit-ups after lunch and watches baseball through our neighbor’s window.

It is summer when it happens and we are alone in the house and outside the day could be something beautiful but we do not bother to look. This boy I sound nothing like comes to me and points to his stomach and says, Go for it. Make a fist and unleash.

I say, My hands are fists and have never been anything else.

I punch him once and my elbow goes numb. I punch him twelve times and a trumpet is blown down the street. I punch him thirty-three times and there is a pyramid of sawdust on the floor and my knuckles are worn away.

This boy I want to hurt laughs at the ceiling fan. He brushes the dust off his stomach with the tips of his fingers and says, Who opened the door?

I punch him four times and hear the foundation of the world crack open. I punch him forty-two times and my left hand breaks.

I leave the room and open dad’s drawer and pull out the brass knuckles and wear them on my good hand and when I come back in the room I start punching this boy who should not be my brother and concentrate on his navel. I punch him five times and break skin. I punch him nine times and unearth human tissue never exposed before to sunlight. I am the shovel and he is the dirt.

Get off me, is what he says, this boy I could erase.

I punch him twenty-seven times and see a tunnel of light. I punch him again and again and lose count and now my whole hand fits inside where his stomach should be. I punch him something like a thousand times and swear I can almost feel his spine.

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