Julie Innis

Corrective

It’s a boyfriend who first points it out. Her nip­ples have grown wall-eyed, star­ing off in oppo­site direc­tions. Distracting, he says, look­ing away.

I hadn’t noticed, she says, but after that it is all she notices. She keeps a shirt on and the lights out, but still, it both­ers her, this prob­lem. She is only twen­ty-five. What if this migra­tion con­tin­ues? By forty, she’ll be flat-chest­ed and breast-backed.

Nip-tuck, the boyfriend advis­es, sewing at the air between them.

The girl finds a doc­tor on the inter­net. I cor­rect these sorts of prob­lems all the time, sure, he says, mea­sur­ing her chest with his hands. But I must warn you, it will be cost­ly, and painful, and will leave an unsight­ly scar.

Can the scar be in the form of my boyfriend’s ini­tials? she asks.

As the doc­tor runs her cred­it card through the machine, he chews at the end of his pen, stares off. I don’t see why not, he says final­ly. What’s his name?

Wolfgang Ludwig Mahler, she tells him. Actually, this is a lie. She no longer has a boyfriend, ever since he point­ed out her prob­lem. She just doesn’t want a plain old scar. The doc­tor takes the pen from his mouth and makes a note.  Musical, he says.

After surgery and after the ban­dages are removed, the girl is dis­ap­point­ed that the scar doesn’t look at all like the ini­tials of her fake boyfriend. Instead it looks like a series of posts strung with barbed wire run­ning the short span of skin between her nip­ples, her breasts fenced in like live­stock in need of cor­ralling. She pic­tures a wide Montana plain as she runs her fin­ger­tip over the raised pink scar and con­sid­ers her sit­u­a­tion in the mir­ror the doc­tor holds.

He is wait­ing for her to say some­thing, but she doesn’t like to feel rushed. If her breasts were live­stock, they wouldn’t be cat­tle, she thinks. They’d be some­thing much small­er, like lambs, or small­er yet, like guinea pigs. In Guatemala they eat guinea pig—she’s seen this on the Travel Channel, guinea pigs dipped and fried whole. She puts her hands under her breasts and con­sid­ers their weight. Lighter than guinea pigs, she fig­ures, prob­a­bly more like ham­sters. But peo­ple don’t herd ham­sters and guinea pigs aren’t fenced in—instead, they range freely, tend­ed to by squat Guatemalan women dressed in ser­apes.

The ser­ape is worn in Mexico. I think you must mean the tra­je. The doc­tor sticks his head out from behind the mir­ror. The mir­ror reflects back her breasts as if they’re now the doctor’s breasts, with nip­ples star­ing straight ahead, alert. The girl feels sud­den­ly shy, doesn’t know where to put her hands. The doc­tor lifts the mir­ror back over his face, his voice muf­fled. I spon­sor a child in Guatemala. I send her mon­ey, let­ters on her birth­day, hol­i­days. He shrugs and the mir­ror moves. The girl fol­lows the move­ment of the mir­ror. She hopes her doctor’s pen­man­ship is bet­ter than his skill with stitch­es.

Pleased? the doc­tor asks final­ly. He puts down the mir­ror, averts his eyes.

Very, the girl says. She likes the sto­ry of this scar. Magical, she thinks.

When the bill comes, she pays it glad­ly and on time.

~

Julie Innis’s work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Gargoyle, Prick of the Spindle, BLIP, Slush Pile, Lit N Image, Fogged Clarity, Pindeldyboz, The Long Story, and Underground Voices, among oth­ers. In May 2009, she was a final­ist for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers and in May 2010, she won the Seventh Glass Woman Prize for Fiction. She has high hopes for May 2011.

This work first appeared at Used Furniture Review