dave bostian & anna whitlock
The sliver was in pretty deep. It went in at a funny angle—not straight by any means. And it hadn’t punctured all seven layers of skin, either. (There are seven layers of skin, right?) Your biggest fear is that all the rumors are true—you can get one so bad that the nurse can’t get it with tweezers. When that happens they send you to see the janitor. He’s a nice enough guy, but you’re eight and he’s old and tall and skinny and the stubble in his balding head is gray and you’ve seen him clean up puke and you wouldn’t clean up puke no matter how much money they were paying you. He throws wood chips in it before he scrapes it into that broom pan thing—the one with the handle. You wouldn’t even touch the handle on that thing after it had been filled up with somebody’s puke.
It’s dark, too—the sliver—not black, but a deep, dark brown. And it’s long, maybe a quarter of an inch but it seems like it’s as long as your backyard, from the patio to the wood pile. (You’ve gotten a lot of slivers from that wood pile). You should have known better than to try and take over the fort. Recess lasts forever sometimes. No one can keep girls out of the fort for that long.
If they send you to the janitor he goes to work on you with a heated needle. You can’t imagine why he’d heat the needle. Would he just pull out a lighter (the green one that he lights his Marlboros with) from his pocket and do it right there in front of you? It’d be somehow even worse if he just struck a match. You’d hear the long, sharp strike and the flickering sound of the sulfur which you’d smell clear into the top of the back of your throat. And you’d see the flame—blue in the center at the bottom and yellow on all sides around—and you’d know it was coming for you, that you’d feel it, too. That’d be awful—to experience that match with all four senses. Oops, you’ve forgotten one, haven’t you? Yes, there are definitely five senses. But which one did you leave out? Doesn’t matter, the match will definitely get that one, too, whichever one it is. But why would anyone go to work on a kid with a heated needle anyway? That part can’t be true, can it?
It’s almost kind of cool. Your skin is translucent above it, and it’s got enough girth to provide some lift, some separation. There is really a lot of substance to that thing. You can see the space between the separate layers of skin. Skin is no longer a single thing—you know its secrets now, you know that skin is really plural. There are the skin above and the skin below the sliver. But you don’t mean to call it a sliver anymore. You’ve heard the other kids talking about splinters and you think that sounds more sophisticated. If you were sure the nurse could get it with tweezers you’d tell her right now just for the satisfaction of saying the word out loud—splinter. She wouldn’t know any better, she’d think you had always called it that.