Thursday, February 19, 2009

Brand new by Oonah V. Joslin

Brand new
by Oonah V. Joslin

Part of the integumentary system, your environmental interface organ says a lot about you but it doesn’t always say the right things. It’s like a book – like a Buchenwald book. People all see the same skin but some deny they ever saw it and others interpret what they see in the light of what they believe or what they want to believe about you. I hesitate to admit it but I was like that with Wmbara. I nearly didn’t take him on - but his rent was always on time and his manners were impeccable. His white hair, bright smile and age persuaded me and soon he became more a fixture than a lodger.

Wmbara had marks – not tattoos but scarifications of the face. Most people looked. Many stared. Others ignored them or took them to be tribal marks inflicted by a barbaric practice to do with punishment or some rite to adulthood. They assumed he wore them with shame or with pride. But our daughter Ruth was only four and so she asked outright.

“Why’s your face all scarred, uncle Bara?” - just like that, before I could stop her and explain that you don’t ask personal questions.

“At about your age, I had the heat convulsions and the doctor man take me and cut into my skin to put in the root juices and make me well again. It was strong medicine.”

Why the face? I don’t know. Ruth didn’t pursue it. She delighted instead in showing him how she could flay the skin from her sun burnt arm, a badge of kinship.

“Don’t do that, child. You’ll hurt yourself and cause an infection.”

“What’s ninfekshon, uncle Bara?”

“Never mind. Come on, let’s get some cream on that arm and soothe it.” And she insisted on putting some on his face too, which made him laugh. “Why don’t you give your uncle Bara a big hug?”

Ruth reached her arms around his neck and kissed his scarred face.

Black – White
Young – Old
Love – Hate
Scalps - a twentieth century history of Native Americans, ill-informed by Hollywood.

Does it matter whether Cornwallis paid for Indian scalps or the French Colonists paid for British scalps or the Visigoths, Franks and Anglo Saxons of the 9th century took what scalps they pleased, paid for nothing and are forgotten by us civilized Europeans? The people fleeing from Hiroshima drag a dark shadow behind them through the receding pages of history.

Δ for Delta, Δουλος, doulos, slave isn’t even Greek to Ruth. She wouldn’t know D for deserter, A for Adulterer, M for Malefactor let alone the translation D for Terrified, A for raped, M for hungry. H for homosexual, hermaphrodite, hostile to this regime, any regime - anything but human. A wristful of numbers is easily misread and who’s counting?

When we can grow enough skin to sell, using nano-scale scaffolding, what colour will that skin be? I wonder how they’ll Brand it.

Ruth - Type one, Caucasian, never tans, freckles. Assumed affiliations - W.A.S.P./ Northern European. Gender - female. Small scar left cheek - probable medical procedure. Age - too young to know about the atrocities of the human mind.

Author bio:

Oonah V Joslin writes poetry and flash, has won the Micro Horror Competition twice and lives with her husband and cat in N.E. England. Her blog is where she posts links to her work every month. She is Managing Editor at


Mark said...

Thought provoking.



Fehmida said...

Very deep, enjoyed :)