Add It Up by Stina Trollbäck

She's leaning against the black metal banister with a thermometer in hand.
    She's trying to add it up.
    I'm adding it up. The average body temperature hovers around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's normal to be as low as 97 degrees, and 99 degrees is normal too. That's a two degree range. And each one-degree causes a big shift. 97 plus two is still normal. 97 plus three degrees means the chills and insomnia start.
    Though, of course, Papa had 97 plus eight degrees, which is pneumonia. He kept shivering and looking at me and every time he shivered I would move a step away but then I would ask to take his temperature again just to make sure and he got mad. And when he got mad I would start drawing a picture and when I drew a picture he said I was just like his mama and then I would get additionally mad on top of his mad, and he would ignore my mad because he said it doesn't help to feed anger with anger. He said that his mama would've been proud of me and that was that, but I stayed mad because I didn't know her and it hurt. It hurt the most because I couldn't bear to swim into the stories that he poured out because I was afraid of the burden of having to carry all his stories second-hand and to not ever hear it from him again, so it was easier to not listen when he spoke of his mama. I sat next to his bed and asked to take his temperature again and he would lift his tongue and I would put the glass thermometer there and then I would look at the number after two minutes and subtract five from 105 and tell him it was just a fever, and he would blink and say I was too kind to become a liar. You're together all the time and your blood is fifty percent the same, only your blood is eight degrees colder. But you've never thought of yourself as a cold-blooded person like a shark, so this is very uncomfortable for you now and you don't like to think that you are ectothermic and need his endothermic warmth, but you touch him to take some of his heat anyway because you do need him.
    Papa liked to say that we are all like sharks, and I guess that still works because he could just be a Great White shark as those are partially warm-blooded, and I'd be a Hammerhead.
    I crawled into his bed at night because he wasn't contagious he swore he wasn't and so did the doctors, so I curled up next to his feet because they stayed cold even when his temperature was that high and his feet weren’t ticklish so I could feel the pulse of his blood in the middle of the night if I woke up afraid and know he was alive and that eight degrees had nothing on him.
    But the eight degrees won eventually because he was too nice and let the eight degrees stay and I'm not as kind as he thought I am so I started yelling at the doctors because they always added the eight degrees and they were the ones who made Papa believe that his insides were melting so clearly that he let himself melt, and you begin to lose yourself a little after that point. It all becomes bitter like thawed metal and diesel and green tea and you pour packets of sugar on your tongue to make the bitter feeling go away but you can't help being bitter at everyone and especially at those eight degrees because if he had subtracted five it would have just been a fever and if he had subtracted six that would have been 99 and that would still be normal, so the bitterness doesn't thaw, you just swim into the bitterness because you are a cold-blooded Hammerhead shark and that's what you do. You swim. I'm swimming.
    She swam in the tiny pool of liquid bitter Mercury that had spilled out of the glass thermometer when she broke it.