Brandi Wells

For Christmas, he makes me a puzzle. He paints a cardboard square and then cuts it into little cookie-sized pieces. He embeds all the pieces in my skin and puts Neosporin on the wounds. We watch them heal together while he tells me stories about his neighborhood in Mexico and how one day the gumball machine spat quarters at him for ten minutes. He skipped school and took the quarters to his neighbor's house which was more a candy store than a house.

"Candy everywhere," he tells me. "Stacked on the counters and coffee table and in huge bins in the middle of the living room floor."

Then he took the candy home in paper grocery bags, ate it, hunched over in his closet, and fell asleep. His grandmother noticed after two weeks that he hadn't been going to class.

We clean my wounds with antibacterial soap and warm salt water. I squeeze them to get the yellowy-white pus out.

He kisses my eyebrows and tells me they are stiff like paintbrush bristles.

"I love you," I tell him.

After a few weeks, the wounds look nearly healed. Just funny mounds of skin scattered around my body. On my knees and arms and neck and stomach and ass.

"Merry Christmas," he says and hands me his pocket knife.

I sit naked on the kitchen floor and start to drag the knife across my skin. Out spills blood and soggy puzzle pieces.

I struggle making the warped pieces fit together and think that I lost a piece until I find it buried in the arch of my foot.

I press the puzzle pieces firmly together and try to blot the still spilling blood away.

"The house I grew up in," he tells me, just before I fall asleep.

Brandi Wells has a BA in Writing and Linguistics and sometimes blogs at http://brandiwells.blogspot.com. Her fiction can be found in or is forthcoming in Hobart, Wigleaf, Monkeybicycle and Lamination Colony.