Leah Browning

For the entire first year of your marriage, you woke before he did and you watched him sleep. His right eyebrow was dissected by a sliver of pale flesh, which made him look young and vulnerable. When he was four, walking down the stairs with a section of metal railroad track in one hand, he tripped and fell onto it. His mother had panicked at the sight of all the blood and took him out for ice cream, furtively, guiltily, after the emergency room and the sturdy-looking black stitches. She had left him alone for just a second to go to the store—he was napping, and she needed eggs—she was baking him cookies, for god’s sake! She was a good mother! And when she got back, damp with  perspiration—because she had been running, she was hurrying as fast as she could—he was kneeling at the bottom of the stairs, his face a mess of blood and tears and mucus. When his mother drinks, she will tell this story obsessively, reliving the moment she walked up the front steps, the sound of sobbing, the way her hand shook so badly that she struggled to fit the key into the lock. Her son was in his late twenties, with a steady job and a wife, the blood wiped away, the damage almost undone, a good man. So you pitied her, with her vodka and sad memories, and in those early mornings, you, you foolish newlywed girl, kissed him gently and thought, I will never hurt you like that.

Leah Browning’s work has appeared in Queen’s Quarterly, The Saint Ann’s Review, 42opus, Tipton Poetry Journal, Brink Magazine, 971 MENU, and elsewhere.  She’s the editor of the Apple Valley Review and can be found at

“Scars” was first published in the blogzine, The Flash-Flood, No. 6 (January 2007).

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