by Tania Hershman
Sixteen and bruised, I was purpled and swollen, insides aching, muscles stretched to their
elastic point. I stood by the side of the road, leaving, again. Leaving it all but knowing that
the finding was like the leaving, just the other side of the knife tip.
I got a ride somewhere and they let me off somewhere else, and I knew I was lost. Not
just aimless, but really lost. And then I met you, on the road. You might have had a halo, a
light shining from every pore of your body, because that’s what you were to me, my own
You pull me to you and I feel your goodness and I’m still feeling it when we’re in the
motel and you’re stroking my hair and we’re touching each other between the legs, and I still
feel it when you cut me, when I’m bleeding.
And I’ll never say you killed me, I’ll never point the finger and say that you’re a
murderer, because you didn’t, you aren’t. You freed me. You shook me from my skin, you
undid all my pieces, and you let me fly.
Note: First published in BRAND, a UK print magazine — now defunct — in 2008, and then in Drunk and Lonely Men, a now-defunct online magazine, also in 2008.
The magazine that first published this story edited it and published the edited version without asking for my permission — and it was a substantial edit for such a tiny story! I was deeply shocked and I complained — whereupon the editor of this now-defunct journal insisted she’d made it better. She’d changed the content, it wasn’t just a few commas! Finally, they published an apology, in the following issue, but I was delighted when Drunk and Lonely Men accepted the original version for publication — and immensely thrilled for it to appear, in the original, here. A cautionary tale, but also one with a happy ending!
Tania Hershman is the author of two story collections: My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books, 2012), and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008; commended, 2009 Orange Award for New Writers) and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers and Artists Companion (Bloomsbury, 2014). Tania’s award-winning short stories and poetry have been widely published in print and online and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and included in the anthology Flash Fiction International (Norton, 2015). Tania is founder and curator of ShortStops (www.shortstops.info), celebrating short story activity across the UK & Ireland. She is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University exploring the intersection between fiction and particle physics. www.taniahershman.com.
FF.Net Editor Commentary (Randall Brown)
There is aching, leaving, knowing, finding, shining, feeling, touching, bleeding. This tense perhaps shows continuing action, something going on. That tense ends, doesn’t appear in the final paragraph. Instead, there’s say, killed, point, didn’t, aren’t, freed, shook, undid, let fly. There’s something to take from “And Bruised”–besides the wonder of this brilliantly rendered story. Create some kind of pattern and, in the end, undo it. Not only do characters or circumstances or understandings change, but so too might the language itself.