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Eventually, the Body Will Reject a Hostile Object of its Own Accord

by Charlotte Turnbull

My house is full of wood. The beds are sleighs, the doors are ledge and brace, the worktops are many, many generous staves. And my family is full of splinters. Gripping the banister I feel one slide into the heel of my palm, so deep you can hardly see its dark and narrow ambit.

I hold it up to the light of the window to break the skin, to dig down, to gouge it out.

I start a new collection in a soap dish in the bathroom.

Every day I used to tweeze my son. He didn’t notice splinters hiding in his knees as he crawled like an explorer across the kitchen table.

I tried to cushion him – to pad him out – but I still found them. Splinters as long as drawing pins ran from the floorboards, through the soles of his slippers, into his toes.

One morning I was rushing to get him to school, when he tripped in panic, fell against a slat-back chair. His arm was stippled.

Each night before bed I plucked him clean, and apologised.

He is older now and, I suppose, deals with splinters his own way.

I grew up in a cold house. I had chilblains all winter. Even in record heats, I needed a thick jumper at home.

My house is warm: warm, but full of splinters. Interior joinery disintegrating, needle by sly needle.

My husband took some to the head recently. He was bringing the foldable camp-bed down from the attic.

‘Hurry,’ I shouted, and he ran the thin film of his scalp into an untreated beam in the roof space.

I gently coaxed each splinter out of his head, our son holding the soap dish.

‘I could make something with all these splinters.’

I smiled. My husband and son didn’t.

I did make something, though, a collage of the three of us. But I dropped it while the glue was still drying. The splinters and glue rolled across the paper, clustering together on the pencilled outline of me.

I showed it to them. I thought they might laugh to see me humped over, with prickles like a hedgehog, but they just looked at one another.

I felt their points in my chest and threw away the tweezers.