Lake Effect, Spring 2002, Volume 6: from Hand Carved

Joanna Howard


from Hand-Carved, These Bones Are the Bones of the Afflicted

     The carved-wood bones of the skeletal puppet clacked forward against the head of the Labrador pup. The pup shook the bones, trying to dislodge the saddleless rider, tied on with curling ribbon, propped straight, but not stationery, with a stick wedged through his hollow chest cavity. The bones were carved separately, and polished with lemon oil, a blackish shine in dull waves of walnut. The bones were adjointed with gray pins, cut down and sanded to the surface, an even feel, not noticed by fingers. It was morning. The father was on the porch steps returned from a night’s work in the oil fields. The grandfather was slunk behind a cup of coffee, a saucer of bacon and skillet-fried toast on the short table beside his bench. The little girl was on the porch floor, legs outstretched on the wooden slats, bare footed, dressed in overalls. She reached for the pup.
     Absinthe, she said to the dog. The pup stopped shaking, approached the girl, tilted his head on angle, hmphed at her. She rose on her knees, pulled her feet beneath her, and reached for the puppet.
      Do not touch the Afflicted Prophet, her grandfather said. One boot was propped across his thin knee.
     Absinthe hates the Prophet, the girl said. Absinthe’s back is being poked by the Prophet’s stake.
     This is no prophet, said her father. This is a perfect and upright man, a man who eschews evil. Her father moved toward the pup, bended at his knees, the stiff black fabric of the roughneck garb moving in zips. The dog rolled on his side, striking the puppet against the porch boards with a mass of crunches…