A Photograph of Bones
by Robin Husen
Like all children, Ava drew stick figures. She rendered eyes and noses as black circles and clothes as vague outlines draped over coat hanger shoulders and ribbed barrel chests. Her teacher said she had an eye for form. She had trouble with facial expressions, but she completed her day-glo Construct-A-Skel first go without any mistakes.
Still, no one guessed what the problem was until her older brother broke his arm on the swings and had to go for x-rays. Her father explained to her that an x-ray was a photograph of bones, and she explained back in her four year-old way that she didn't see any difference. The eye doctor made her read a chart, and she read it just fine, and the one behind it, and the one in the next room, even though the door was shut. When the truth dawned, her father felt his scalp tighten.
"She can see bones," he said. Ava sat on the floor with her arms round his leg. Hugging his tibia and fibula.
"Amongst other things," the doctor said, using lungs and a larynx, which appeared to Ava to be entirely absent. He lifted her onto the table and regarded her with empty orbits. He pressed his tombstone teeth together. "We may be able to correct it. A subretinal injection of photo pigments into the cone cells."
"Think what she can do," Ava's mother said. Her phalanges fluttered like birds as she spoke. "She could be an osteopath when she grows up. Or a government spy."
"Or work in airline security," her father said, blankly. He felt four years of grief for the lack of warmth in his daughter's world.
"There is an issue of privacy," the doctor said. "She can see through people's clothes."
"Such a time saver," her mother said.
Ava's father pressed the distal phalanx of his index finger to his glabella. "She can't see the soft bits."