small textlarge text

Keith Rebec

The Young Girl Leaned Over the Virgin Waters

at Fontana di Trevi holding the severed thumb. She found the thumb inside a soda bottle on Via Poli street and in hunger had sucked it out. Near her, along the chiseled blocks of travertine, an aged American couple teetertottered with death and flicked coins over their shoulders, and when their gilded moneta struck the water they turned to catch the fleeting taste of youth. They failed and closed their eyes and the girl wondered how much vanilla pudding they’d eaten and in return given to God. Were their wishes enough to squash the hunger for what they thought they didn’t know? Or were they better off to kneel and raise their hands to die? From their feeble, hapless bodies, she guessed it was the latter, and rightfully so. Their bones would be easy to break and break down and with that thought her arm began to hurt so she dropped the thumb into her left palm. Her wish wasn’t to know their wish or to wish at all but rather to slip into the water and pee and pocket fistfuls of silver before she got caught, enough to buy a loaf of bread and a grape soda.

Somewhere in Roma a canon herniated which struck an inkling in the girl to pick at a pimple on her chin and she bent close to the water. She pinched the dead thumb with her breathing thumb and held them both in her palm, popped the pimple with her free hand. She winced and wiped the pusshead on her dress and as she did the couple approached. She tried to count the wrinkles on the water’s skin and all three looked the part of death and before either could speak she stood, opened her hand. Afing fing, she said. See Harriot, the man said, I told you everyone knows a little English. What? Harriot said. The girl coughed and chewed the phlegm and it settled underneath her tongue. The deceased thumb rested in her open palm sunny side up and she raised it closer to the man’s face. He struggled to bend down and shrugged upon inspecting it and in his rising he titled his head toward the sun.

The girl shook her head and spat into the fountain where the stringy catarrh caught in Neptune’s beard. She wiped her mouth and smiled and asked the woman for a dollar, and when the woman gave her a dollar and a half the girl turned, tossed the thumb over her shoulder, and never looked back.

➥ Bio