by J. Bradley


My mother notices the subcutaneous tissue beneath her brow, the flowing arteries. She taps her brow with her right index finger: clink, clink, clink. My mother picks up the bandana that’s next to the sink. She ties it around her head and winces. I can see the bones beneath her left hand.

The state required that “the talk” take place on the first day of ninth grade. There wasn’t any actual talking though, just a pamphlet stapled to a waiver. I didn’t believe what the pamphlet said until I saw my best friend’s father trip on his driveway, how easily his left arm shattered. The empty shoulder socket was too fragile for a replacement, my best friend told me after his father was sent away to the island.

My mother closes the toilet lid, sits on it. She asks me to get the skin from the medicine chest. “Make sure you apply it evenly,” she says. My mother grits her teeth with each stroke.

The pamphlet mentioned that the death of your first spouse is the trigger, even if you’re married to someone else when it happens. The state doesn’t know the reason behind the trigger; they often confuse awareness with education.

I blow on my mother’s runny forehead to help dry it faster. She stands up, looks in the mirror. “It’ll have to do.”



J. Bradley is the author of The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective (Pelekinesis, 2016). He lives at



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