I cleared the desk of everything, even the lamp, and set before me a square telephone in the center of the desk, then sat down and pulled the telephone toward me, very cautiously, into my lap. And I called the hospital. They hadn't admitted a girl with no hands.
It was all very curious, and so I dialed for the Sheriff's Station. Similarly, they had not received any reports of a girl found with no hands.
But I saw the girl with my own eyes, spread out calmly, longways on the sidewalk, with her arms placed at either side. In the dark it had looked as if the girl's hands were simply buried in her jeans pockets, and that she were passed out, but the closer I came to her, I could see that if the hands were buried anywhere, they weren't around here, and the girl was not sleeping or passed out, she was bleeding profusely. The supermarket towered over this side of the street in either direction for a block. Across the street, in the empty lot of the closed strip mall, there was nothing, and nobody. There were no hands lying around, bleeding on the concrete.
But the frayed end of her wrists were bleeding everywhere, pooled in the cracks of the sidewalk underneath her, creating stained splotches at the bottom of her t-shirt and the thighs of her jeans.
Nervously, I plunged my own hands deep within the comforting warmth of my dress pants and held my head low, walking away from the girl on the sidewalk.
I stopped in at the all-night bakery for some orange juice and toast, sitting in the corner booth, listening to an older gentleman ruffling the hem of a newspaper at the bar. Steam curled up in delicate dreamy clouds over his cup of coffee. On a small white glass plate next to the cup of coffee was a fork and what looked like crumbles of soft cake, with a little frosting scraped off onto the side of the plate. The two ladies behind the counter of the bakery were actually knitting. From my corner booth by the window I could almost make out the supermarket down the road, but it was kind of blurred by the darkness and the trees that blocked the streetlamps from lighting this view.
It took me nearly an hour to finally go home. When I did, I showered and I thought about the girl with no hands, about bathing her in this bathtub and singeing the ends of her wrists to cauterize them so that she wouldn't be drained of all her blood before the autopsy could be performed. I wondered what the pathologist would make of this situation. I should maybe have tried to talk to her. There could have been a last word on her breath, waiting to be expelled if I just pushed down on her belly a little and parted her lips at the same time. She could have tried to say good-bye, or she could have tried to say no, a failed defensive statement that never quite got out because her body, in shock, had given up too quickly.
And I thought how brave the paramedics would have to be, to wrap her up without crying. They would likely be thinking of the girl's mother; or both her parents, for that matter, and if they were together still, or divorced. They would be thinking of whom in their circle would be responsible for breaking the news to the parents, if either of them could be tracked down at all. Or if they were even still alive.
After a shower I dressed for bed, in a pair of black slacks and a nice shirt that wouldn't look too terribly disheveled in the morning if I were to be tossing about fitfully in sleep, wondering if I should get back up and telephone the hospital, or the Sheriff, to find out if -- or ask when -- someone finally reported (or would report) the dead girl.