'An Officer of the Court' by Nan Wigington

She watches the embers, remembers how the body wants to burn. She finds the bones and wants to make them flesh again. Now she sees the fingers – long and articulate or short and unintelligible, the fingernails, pale or bloody – and thinks how salt and sweet mix. How memory relies on this, the confusion of pain and pleasure. Once, when she was a little girl, she cracked a tooth on a pistachio. The destruction, the rot ruined her mouth for months, but the meat was so sweet. She still loves pistachios, eats them when she interrogates.
It's good, another officer told her, to understand mending. If you are to take something apart , you ought to know how to put it back together. That's why she learned to sew. How many days she worked on seams – tearing them out, stitching them back. Then there were the shirts. Buttons were nearly her downfall, but she persevered. How easy it was to pop each white pearl from its nesting place, but to put them back? And the eyelets? Oh, the eyelets. The body of the witness was even worse. Easy to cut, bruise, break, but how to smooth the welts and kinks? How to put a heart back, achieve a smile? When the witness speaks, he must look whole. Otherwise, truth seems broken.
And in this way she becomes good at her job, the best. Judges from other countries try to lure her away, offer husbands, houses in the country. But she remains loyal. This is the place she loves. Who else can grow such witnesses? Without them, their sacrifice and testimony, there can be no tomorrow.
How she loves the soft spots. See how gentle she is. Feel her fingers – above your stomach, beside your neck, along your clavicle, at the jugular notch.

First published in Halo Literary Magazine, Issue 2.


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