Skin -- flash fiction by Ashley Kim
The sunflower brooch my grandmother would wear on her crimson sweater would always sag down. It used to bug me as a child--I’d point it out to her with my baby fattened index that I could barely see the brooch design properly. After all, brooches are supposed to be pinned onto a more sturdy fabric, like that of a coat or blazer. My grandmother said to me she didn’t care about conventionality. She liked the brooch, and she liked the crimson sweater. It was a simple calculation. There was nothing I could really say about that. I have no memories of her without the sweater and brooch on.
When my grandmother passed, the funeral service was not an open casket. All throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was wearing her sunflower brooch and sweater--if she was to be buried in the way I always envisioned her. Beaten by my strong curiosity, I went to my dad to ask, but the question quickly left me as I heard the words “suicide” spill from his mouth. I was suddenly part of his conversation with my uncle, who was slobbering in tears.
A few days later, I went to my grandmother’s apartment with my parents to help clean out her things. When I opened the closet door, I became tranquilized with shock. There were only crimson sweaters with sunflower brooches droopily pinned hung all along the rack. I reached over to one, brushing my fingers against the soft, worn-out yarn. It made sense, I guess, for someone who wore the same outfit every day to have more than one to wear--it just never really crossed my mind… I just never expected it.
As I ran my fingers down the sweater still hung, I stopped at the feeling of sharp paper. I immediately unhooked the crimson sweater and found a slip with only the words: “For Pauline” on it. I placed the sweater onto the bed and began to look through the tens of others. Each sweater had a small note in its right-hand pocket with “For” followed by someone’s name--I was desperate to find mine.
I flipped through an infinite number of sweaters, a bundle of names: Michael, Jordan, Fiona, Lily (my mother), Jonathon, Sammy, Tobias (my father), until I finally reached mine. I carefully plucked out the paper and held my grandmother’s elegant writing of my name tight. I then looked at the crimson sweater with uncertain fear. What was I to do with it now? Keep it away in my own closet, never to be worn again? Donate it? Give it away? but that would be too harsh for this, this… actually, what even is this? Some sort of parting gift? I mean, it's something she prepared for me to have once she was gone… With a deep breath and single motion, I slipped on the sweater and immediately wanted to vomit. It felt like putting another person’s skin
on. I rapidly stripped it off and stared at the crimson thing with wide eyes and confusion. I then studied the duplicates still hanging, almost dangling, on the rack and all I could see now was skins--a gallery of crimson skins on hangers. The closet became a gruesome site of much revolt. The yarn I clenched in my hands transformed fleshy and bloody as stomach acid fought its way up me. I dropped the skin from my hands and frantically shut the closet door.
Ashley Kim is a high school senior from Orange County, California. She has been recognized by the 2020 and 2021 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards with an Honorable Mention for short story and a Silver Key for poetry, as well as has been published in Euphemism Magazine. Some of Ashley’s favorite things to do include making music, writing poems, and watching Marvel movies with friends.