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This post is a day-late response to the first prompt from yesterday’s 500 Club at The Parking Lot Confessional. It was also inspired by listening to a news show on NPR yesterday afternoon.


Dara never liked the color red. But red — in this case “Big Apple Red” — grabs attention. That’s why guys drive red sports cars, right? For the attention.

She presses the tip of the nail polish brush to her index fingernail. The paint pools at her cuticle before she slicks a line toward the tip.

The first time she grew her nails out, they got to just under an inch before she snagged one on a towel and it broke. In a fit, she cut all ten off at the nub. That was her freshman year, after Mandy Parish beat her out for the lead role in the winter musical.

She dips the brush into the bottle again and wipes the excess paint on the rim. Maybe should have bought two bottles. The bristles glisten in the sunlight blazing in like a spotlight. She turns her hand to guide the brush around the coil.

The second time, she made it past two inches on her right hand, but only on her middle and ring fingers. She taught herself how to hold a pencil and write using just her first finger and thumb. Taught herself how to turn knobs and zip zippers. Gave up typing altogether. Her mom called the look “interesting”. Her brother called her disgusting. Then the nails grew brittle and broke and Dara mowed them down to the point they bled. That was her sophomore year, after Troy dumped her, saying he needed to concentrate on baseball instead of girls, and Jennifer Colson won the Tri-County Miss Majestic Pageant and got to ride around the fair in a red Cadillac convertible. Bitch.

The brush slips and the paint bleeds to the underside of her pinky nail. A red drip, tracing the spiral down.  She catches the mistake with a cotton ball. The fibers catch and pull, shredding a white web where the nail is rough. The paint sops up the white and soaks it to red. She winces. Knows this is a bad sign. With the pads of her fingers, she whispers a file’s grit along the nail edge. Go slow, she tells herself. Don’t blow it now.

The longest fingernails on record are something like 28 feet long. Dara knows that will take years. The news people will be here at noon. Start small and grow is her plan. Sure they’ll ask her about being suspended from school for excessive dress code violation. But her mom will laugh it off. “Kids,” she’ll say, touching her own ceramic nails to her updo. “You know. Phases.” And when the newsman presses further, she’ll put an arm around her, saying she loves her daughter, saying this is Dara’s moment to shine.

Dara dabs glue at the weak spot, blows on it to dry, and continues with the paint until all ten are glistening perfection. She clicks on the fan with her toe and holds her treasures before the blades to dry. Turns her wrists and spreads her fingers to admire the turns and coils. The air blows cold and she leans in to feel it on her face. So close it blows against her eyelashes. So strong it dries her lips.

“Oh,” she breathes out, her nails tapping and her voice fracturing in the blades, “just watch me shine.”

Copyright © 2010 by Amy K. Nichols



3 thoughts on “Shine

    S. C. Green said:
    September 17, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    This reminds me of a book my son got for his birthday. Guinness Book of World Records. They have a picture of a man and woman with the longest nails. I still can’t look at it without shivering.
    By the way, the writing’s good, too.

    c.g.reyes said:
    September 22, 2010 at 3:31 am

    Ms. Nichols, first of all I want to say thank you. I am inspired by your writing and encouraged to hear what you have to say. I enjoy reading your blog and aspire to be as good as you one day. This story, was enjoyable, and although I’m not sure of your intention but it felt a little creepy and I’m not sure why. The character seems a little odd and maybe that’s why I find it creepy, or just the nails and her obsession with it. Either way thank you.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      September 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

      Wow. Thank you for saying such nice things about my writing, C.G. You really made my day. Yes, my intention was for the girl with the fingernails to be a bit “off” and creepy. I’m glad you picked up on that, and her obsession with getting attention.

      I’m so glad you posted here. I just checked out your blog, and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

      Have you heard of the 500 Club at The Parking Lot Confessional (my writers group)? Every Thursday we post writing prompts and challenge each other to write a story of 500 words based on the prompt. This story (“Shine”) was written last Thursday for the 500 Club. It’s a fun exercise for getting the writing wheels turning. I hope you’ll consider giving it a try. 🙂

      Thank you again for stopping by and reading and saying such encouraging things!

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