"The Girl with the Missing Face"

 

--from Fwriction Review

The bomb had blown part of her face off. They said someone had hidden it in a package, and that when the paramedics arrived, the girl’s ear was hanging off the side of her cheek. We heard they found her lips tangled in a bloody mess of green shag carpet, and that they had to put them in a bag of ice to keep them alive. While my teacher talked about The American Revolution, I imagined the lips sealed in a Ziploc bag filled with ice cubes, the bag fogged up, as if the lips were still breathing.

After school, my friends and I rode our bikes past the girl’s house. The yard was roped off with yellow crime tape, and the front of the house was missing. The room closest to the street, where the girl had been watching TV, had been nearly gutted, and part of the roof had been blown off.  The crepe myrtle in the garden near the front door was leafless, except for stringy pieces of insulation that looked like pink flowers blooming along the tangled branches. A dented gutter, shingles, and pieces of sheetrock freckled the lawn. That afternoon, letters cluttered mailboxes all over town, and when the brown UPS truck growled through our neighborhood, everyone held their breath.

After my father got home from work, we went to the hospital to visit the girl. When we got there, her mother was sitting in the corner of the room crying, her mascara dripping black tears onto her cheek. My father had gone to high school with the girl’s mother. They hugged, and he asked her how the girl was doing. As they talked, the oxygen tank sighed while the girl lay in the hospital bed next to them breathing through two little holes in her face, her brain a tangled black sky filled with dull stars.

The next day, as I sat in History class, I stared at the girl’s empty desk. Her father was a judge, and we didn’t know yet that some guy he’d put in prison years ago had hidden the bomb in the package as an act of revenge. For all we knew there was some lunatic planting bombs in packages and placing them on random porches all across town. Before class started, my teacher said the girl had died at the hospital in the middle of the night, and that we should all pause for a moment of silence. We closed our eyes and wondered who would be next. And as we sat quietly in our desks, we listened to the sounds floating outside the open window of the classroom—car horns mingled with the cawing of crows, a police siren—and buried beneath the chaos of it all, the quiet tick, tick, tick of the clock on the wall.