428 Readings



You were happy, and thus, suspect. Inquiries were made.

Your weight and height were measured at different times,

under varying conditions. In a park on a beach towel

laid out in the sun reading you were exactly the same length

as on a bus scaling a hill listening to music on the way

to work. It seemed impossible. Further examinations

yielded more data, less certainty. Your hair showed

no signs of recent drug use, the salt and pepper ratio

consistent with previous readings. Your tongue was soft

like a mouse stripped of skin. When you undressed

for inspection, one breast was slightly larger than

the other but then, it had always been so. The bellybutton

was properly tied off. The moles did not correspond

to any star patterns in the western hemisphere,

and were disregarded. But there were disturbing readings.

When you took a shower the water was punishingly hot.

You picked at the cuticle of your right thumb, deforming

the nail bed. A habit, you said, but why had it developed?

Your stools were firm and regular, which was irregular.

Your eyes were, one researcher noted, furtive, a word

he’d never used before in a report. He was quarantined.

But you were happy. You smiled on the 4th of July

for no patriotic reason. Footage from the grocery store

showed you joking with the butcher. Shows your teeth

white against your skin, your skin unblemished, unpicked.

You walked with purpose, even if that purpose

could not be quantified. When you drove to the ocean

and swam out to the sandbar, you were far enough

from shore only to register on the instruments as a dot,

then a line, then a streamer, waving. After that,

nothing. There was the usual seaweed, phosphorescence.

Observers found washed up on the beach two jellyfish,

assorted clam shells, a sun bleached condom, one fish head.

Science cannot tell us if drowning is best under current

human subject guidelines. There is theory, and there is

practice. Were you happy? You were happy.

Posted 07/02/16
First published in Copper Nickel
Books by Rebecca Hazelton