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The Painted Nail

Munson's Microfiction

By Christy MunsonPublished 26 days ago Updated 26 days ago 3 min read
The Painted Nail
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Small bottles rattle, so she places them gently into her lab coat's pockets wrapped inside thin swaths of cotton mesh. Her aging femme fatale face reveals her plans, were anyone in the lab to catch her just now. But she's alone. Alone with her thoughts, and the lab's sterile equipment, and all these panels, gadgets and dials.

She takes her time, luxuriating in privacy. She thinks about the pinkies that'll barely fit inside the glass, and how her skin will flush with the pinching down of the nail tips when she screws back on the tiny metal lids. Her grin scowls as she ponders which pinky will be severed from a boy child, and which from a girl child. Will any of the former owners have stroked a lusty varnish? Used a lush hue so daring that she might lick it, just the once? A mermaid's blue? A raven's black?

Her own nails have hardened and poxed. Such intolerable striations. These nauseating flakes. Her once-famous violet eyes growl to a half-close, registering self-loathing and disgust. But there's no time for that. Tomorrow she'll lean into it, taking pride in her mission. Finding little volunteers. But at present she has an arm to detach.

"Line?" Aralia cannot concentrate. Not with this hideous excuse for a set. Not to mention the bad lighting. Soap Opera gels. And what's with the sticky linoleum? And who's responsible for these real glass vials? These things could break and cut her. Doesn't the leading lady still deserve lovely fakes, those custom sugar vials?

When the director calls, "Cut," Aralia pauses to wipe away her character's vulgar lipstick before hurriedly stripping off the long white lab coat. She feels a twinge of guilt at having ripped a tear into an offending sleeve. The project's seamstress already struggles, overburdened with monster costumes for the Halloween ball sequence.

Can I be this desperate? Aralia paces in her trailer. Her eyes wander to the mini fridge. Its blue light calls to her. Taunts her. Why did I ever allow Rudd to convince me to take this godforsaken role?! Oh, that's right.... the mortgage...! Damn you, Peter.

The trailer's solitude allows Aralia to slip thrice washed fingers around the throat of a tall liquor bottle. It's only nine o'clock, but she's been up since 5 AM, filming since 5:15. She wants a drink even worse than she wants off the film. Her anxiety escalates.

One glance. At any glass. Especially ones with metal lids. She sees them now, through her character's eyes. Those hateful, violent violet eyes. Her eyes.

She tries. But Aralia cannot distance herself. She keeps imagining the horrid things. Fingers. Toes. Eyes. Her tired mind keeps turning it over and over. The cutting. The bleach. That final scene...

A sudden tug of vomit doubles Aralia over the tiny sink. Out ejects more than craft table blueberry muffins.

She wipes blue chunks from her lower lip, checks herself in the full length, and steadies her shoulders. With a modestly raised voice, Aralia calls for her assistant. Instructs him to get Rudd on the phone.

She waits, pacing. Back and forth. Back and forth. Never again! I'm done with all these creepy characters. Done with this crap-tacular project. I'm a serious actress. My fans still clamor for me. Don't they?

When Rudd arrives two hours later, Aralia's back at it, newly drunk. Filming flashbacks and insets. The dimly lit set is even more morose, and newly smelly. Needlessly smelly.

The script calls for Aralia's character to open a bottle. A tiny bottle. Inside is a well-made prosthetic. A little girl's pinkie. It wiggles. The nail's been painted pink. The director's waiting. On Aralia. It's time. Time to lick the pink tipped pinkie.

The director cannot hear Aralia's struggle, but everyone can see it. And so they watch. Horrified. The waves of humiliation wash up loudly against the shores of despair. It's an Oscar-worthy performance.

When Aralia finally speaks, projecting loudly enough to be heard, her words hide themselves behind ghostly white fingers that cover her embarrassment far better than they hide her mouth. Over her once magnificent shoulder she concedes, to the next generation, to the emptied bottle, and to the years of bad judgment. "My tears need a minute to find the edges of my face. If you'll please excuse me."


Copyright © 05/23/2024 by Christy Munson. All rights reserved.

Author's notes: Written for my unofficial challenge, Munson's Microfiction. This story, of course, is ineligible to win any prize money but I can't resist participating. This is my second of two entries. Jax is my other piece. Hope you enjoy reading both!


About the Creator

Christy Munson

My words expose what I find real and worth exploring.

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Unofficial Challenge Winners:

Ask Me in December | Story of Humanity | Strangely Art

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (7)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran25 days ago

    Oooo, I wanna lick that pinkie hehehehehe. Loved your story!

  • John Cox25 days ago

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m glad we’re not competing with you. Another amazing story, Christy!

  • angela hepworth25 days ago

    Amazing work!

  • Well-wrought! "Her grin scowls". Love that!

  • D.K. Shepard25 days ago

    A very compelling character in such a miserable set of circumstances. So many magnificently rendered details throughout!

  • Your story drew me in from the very beginning with its unique premise and compelling characters. The way you explore themes of identity, self-expression, and the complexities of human relationships is both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant. I found myself completely immersed in the world you created, eagerly turning the pages to uncover the secrets and truths hidden within. What struck me most about "The Painted Nail" is your ability to infuse each character with depth and authenticity, allowing readers to connect with them on a deeply personal level. Whether it's the protagonist grappling with their own sense of identity or the supporting characters navigating their own struggles and desires, each individual feels real and relatable, adding richness and complexity to the narrative.

  • Hannah Moore25 days ago

    What a miserable position.

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