by Leslie What

When I look at Denny I can’t see the man I married twenty-five years ago. I see what he has become: his malformed fingers, twisted and swollen at the joints; yellow discharge from his eyes; raised red skin patches that dry and die and transform into silvery scales that slough away, until the next cycle, with new eruptions of red. Psoriasis is no simple malady of the skin; it is the body, attacking itself. The heat exacerbates the symptoms, and in the summer, we keep the curtains drawn in protest. The weather is unnaturally muggy and our house is dark, especially in the bedroom. The room smells cave-dank. While Denny is outside, mowing the back field, I prepare to sweep up the death with a broom and dustpan. I shake out the top sheet, an act generating a breeze so abrupt it does nothing to cool the room. A flurry of white flakes rise and settle over the floorboards. It’s a beautiful sight--like a dusting of snow on a dark road. But the moment is transient, and when it passes, I see skin cells dirtying the floor.

I sweep the faded oak planks, traversing a wide circle from the walls inward. The circle grows smaller with each broom pass, and a mound takes shape as I push detritus toward the center of the room. My dustpan fills with Denny’s skin, and bits of dust and hair.

He woke up this morning with his joints burning, and got more salty than usual when I nagged him about the grass. He’s been promising to mow it for days.

“This is why God made goats,” Denny said, but he knew better than to argue theology with me--I majored in religious studies.

“This is why God made riding mowers,” I said.

He scratched at his head and examined his nails for blood. He looked so uncomfortable I said, “Why don’t you let me do it? Can’t be all that hard to drive.”

My offer just made things worse. He clomped outside and got to work, and now he’s mowing like a martyr. His skin will crawl from so much sun, and he’ll blame me, but won’t say so.

I should have let him borrow the goat.


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