The Inside of Bones

By Kelly McMasters

September 20, 2021

The Inside of Bones

His small voice cuts a jagged line into the not-quite-morning quiet. My body reflexively lifts out of bed, finds its way over the piles of tiny cars and books, through the stone darkness of our new apartment, our first without his father. I steer myself into the bedroom he shares with his younger brother, find his bed, crawl in.

“Mama,” he repeats, softer this time. His eyes are wide and staring. “What’s inside my bones?”

His body is taut beneath his duvet and the nightlight hollows his eyes gray. He is five. He loves ABBA, the beauty of photosynthesis, the number zero. I murmur about minerals and marrow, picturing the mealy silt sealed inside his spindle legs. He is small for his age, can’t yet tip the old brass scale past 38 pounds at swim lessons. He is sharp-edged, ungraceful; holding him feels like putting my arms around a folding chair.

My hand rests on his sternum, thrumming with his heartbeat. He lightly moves it away. He weighs what I’ve given him, fragments about blood cells and tissue.

But it’s enough, for now.

His body relaxes beside me and his breathing goes hard, like his brother’s across the room. I stare at him as the light shifts through the blinds. The translucent skin on his eyelids gives a faint ripple, the thin purple branches of blood vessels pulsing like a secret between us.

What’s inside your bones, sweet boy?

I am.


Kelly McMasters is a writer in New York. She is the author of Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town and the forthcoming Leaving Season: A Memoir-in-Essays, and co-editor of the anthology This is the Place: Women Writing About Home and the forthcoming Wanting: Women Writing about Desire


Picture by William Fortunato courtesy of Pexels

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