“A Dictionary of How Things Break” by Nora Studholme

1. Glass: radially. Flicking outward in forking fingers, fleeing the force until all its power is spent and it settles into an uneasy stillness.

2. Metal: reluctantly. It shouldn’t be breaking. It is supposed to be impervious. It splits hot and howling, its edges vengeful, seeking flesh.

3. Water: doesn’t. It shifts and splashes, playful, a mockery to weight. It refuses to be serious. It accepts, it envelops, it closes over. As whole as before.

4. Bones: raggedly. The halves slip away from each other in matching jigsaw shards, as tight as teeth. The bones of teens can bend at first, but then they snap. They pop and puncture inside a body, no hiss of air, but wouldn’t you expect it?

5. Promises: softly. It takes almost no force. There is no sound except the words of the original promise. I won’t drive if I’ve had anything to drink. I’ll call you. The rest is silence, the break so gentle and unperturbed it makes no ripples in a young mind.

6. People: suddenly. The cracks don’t show like they do on glass. You think at first people are like water. They close over a hundred tiny wounds again and again, surface unbroken. But really they’re like bones: bending and then—one more loss, one more betrayal—the break is complete, broad, irreparable.

7. Waves: derisively. Tearing open in strips of white against the stone, retreating, cowering, charging again. Pushing themselves up against the pillars of the bridge with the broken guardrail, lapping and mocking as if they did not swallow what was most dear to you.

8. Day: insistently. Over and over. Pressing away at the dark, with no thought to your aching eyes. Revealing again and again the sad, serious faces, the expectations, the funeral flowers. It doesn’t care that the blackness of night is more comfortable, full of hopeless stars that peer back from an unchangeable past.

Nora Studholme was born and raised in the countryside of Virginia, where she grew her roots wandering forests, always with a book in hand. Now, she is astonished to re-discover daily that she lives in beautiful Florence, Italy, where she writes, reads, eats pasta, and discovers glimmers of stories hiding everywhere. Her short fictions have appeared in various publications such as The Dillydoun Review, Aayo Magazine, and Club Plum. She is humbled to have been recognized as a finalist for several awards, including the Grindstone Novel Prize, The Alpine Fellowship, and UK New Writers Flash Fiction Award, as well as winning Creative Ink’s 2022 Short Story Competition.



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