Volume 40 ~ 2017
My sister and I peeked around my mom’s leg, latching on like hungry leeches. We were fascinated by the man’s shiny badge, “Jefferson County Police,” in bold gold letters. When my mom called my brother upstairs, the monsters in black uniforms asked him to remove his shirt. Reluctantly, he revealed his wounds. A seat belt mark stretched from shoulder to hip, and bruises covered his arms and abdomen.
She covered our eyes, but we peeped through the cracks and watched the man tighten handcuffs around my brother's wrists. “I’m sorry,” he said, looking into my mother’s eyes before they pulled him away. I fought to get around my mom and reach my brother. I plucked at her fingers, trying to release her tight grasp from my arm.
The next few nights were restless. My parents screamed, and we saw my dad throw a carton of eggs and smash bags of chips. On my way to school, my sister and I walked passed the auto shop. We always recognized it by the big pole in the front.
From far away, it was gone, but as we got closer, we saw the pole resting on the grass, not a dent or scratch, nothing compared to my brothers car. We crossed the street to get a closer look. I kicked the pole as we passed, and looked back to see my little sister do the same.
In the field, there's a stump that stands
two feet tall. The surrounding trees look down on it.
My mind is in the cemetery. The broken bark
of the stump is a grave stone, and the trees
are humans who stare down in sorrow and mourn.
As my vision blurs, I see my friend. She smiles,
her brown eyes contrasting with the blue sky. I extend
my arms, but no matter the stretch,
I’ll never reach. When my eyes go foggy again,
I already know the sight is slipping
from my weak grasp. Now, her purple shirt
has slowly faded into the purple lilacs
on her grave.
Reese’s teeth chattered. She held her head in quivering hands. “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?” she mumbled repeatedly, rocking back and forth. A dead pig sat at our feet. Blood dripped down its body, reaching the cracks and soaking in deeper, leaving dark red stains. I wiped the sweat dripping down my forehead with the back of my hand. Each drop ripped away my mask of courage.
“C’mon Reese, let’s go,” I shook her shoulder, “I need your help,” I looked down at the bloated animal and my nose crinkled in disgust. The thin shirt pulled over my nose was no match for the smell seeping through. We each grabbed a back leg, trying to avoid the bullet wound, although we already had its blood on our hands.
Reese yanked her hands away and whimpered, “This wasn’t part of the plan, I can’t do this.” She started crying into her hands again.
“We need to drag him to your jeep and bring it to the river.” I tried to talk Reese through the process, and she only nodded.
We trudged through the back yard, dragging the pig by its legs and leaving a trail of blood on the yellow grass. Reese and I each grabbed a side of the pig, “Okay, 1..2..3.. Lift!” I grunted.
It rained only two days before, and the river was flowing quickly. We arrived just before the scent in the jeep became unbearable. By the time we unloaded the pig, time did not matter anymore, it was too late. Reese’s mom would come home and see the blood, and my father would stutter up the steps to my bedroom.
When the pig sunk to the bottom, we sat on the cement edge and dipped our toes in the cold river water as the minutes passed. More than anything I wanted to say, “Let's run away,” but I knew Reese’s weak heart would say yes, and I couldn’t do that to her.
Without exchanging a word, we rambled home to face the consequences. With too many things to think about, I let myself be mesmerized by the dirt trail behind our tires. We drove past my house. I saw the chipped pale paint, the broken attic window, and the red rocking chair on the creaky porch. I noticed my father's rustic pickup missing from the back. My stomach knotted thinking that he might be at Reese’s house waiting for me.
We grabbed hands and walked towards the front door, our steps in unity. Mrs. Davis was startled by the creaking door. “Hi, Mom.” It was the first time I heard Reese’s voice in hours, and it was different. Mrs. Davis turned and scooped us into her loving arms, supporting our heads with her hands.
“Lilly, your dad was driving home today, and he was involved in an accident.” She swallowed hard, “He died.” A tear almost trickled down, but I was never going to cry a single tear for him again. They stared at me, waiting for a reaction; a single word or cry. The rosey color in Reese’s cheeks came back to life, and I could feel the weight lift off our shoulders.
Earlier that morning, Reese and I put one bullet in the dusty shotgun Dad kept in the basement. We left early, making sure to get to our spot in the tree’s before he walked by. My father walked crooked, swerving and tripping over his own feet. “He’s really drunk,” I whispered. I felt comfort knowing that maybe he wouldn’t feel the bullet.
Reese held the gun to her arm socket, something she learned from the forced hunting classes with her brother. Her hands trembled. “Do you want me to do it?” I asked.
“No.” Determination and hate filled her eyes. Then the gunshot fired, startling both of us. My father turned his head to the boom, and without a second thought, continued to walk to work.
“You didn’t hit him,” I said. Her eyes got bigger and her hands shook.
“I hit the pig.” I leaned over to peek through the small branches Reese could see from. Mr. Walter’s pig had wandered into the field that morning. We walked up to its lifeless body lying in the blistering heat.
A few days after the funeral, I looked up at the bedroom window where it first happened. I went in the house and lit a candle with Dad’s lighter, and set the curtains on fire. As I stood back, I watched the old wood catch fire. When the windows blew out and pieces of thick glass flew in the air, I fled to the river.
Reese sat next to me on the same cement edge. We didn’t talk. The river flowed faster than days before, and the pig was gone.
Pearls For Pearl
Pearl’s palms are soft and perfect. Our fingers interlock, and her small hands are only half the size of mine. I compare her splintered pink polish to my smooth magenta.
As Uncle Ryan swings the door open to the dimmed room, we are hit with a gust of expensive perfume. Pearl says, “It smells like Grandma in here.”
She asks me what we are doing in this mysterious place, and she knows to whisper because of the quiet sniffles and clicking of high heels telling her so.
I just squeeze her hand, and when she squeezes back, I know she is okay with my answer.
I scoop my little cousin in my arms, more for my own comfort then hers, she rests her head on my shoulder because of the tears rolling down my cheek.
Pearl adjusts herself in my arms to look at me. All I wanted to do was count each freckle that covered her cheeks and nose and imagine myself swimming in her ocean eyes. “Where’s Grandma?” she spoke, revealing the gap between her teeth. She doesn’t yet understand why we are here. We walk through the aisle, making our way to Grandma’s casket.
Pearl’s eyes were wide, staring at Grandma’s powdery skin. “Look,” The ivory pearls caught her attention. She pointed at the necklace lying on Grandma.
“I think she is wearing those for you, Pearl.”
One Night of Perfection
I met my best friend
by the pond of Meadow Park
We made megaphones
of tube slides as we raced
to the bottom,
and braided each other's
sun kissed hair while sucking on
Each morning she demanded Fruit Loops
and waited at the window for something
that rarely came.
Beda left the red ones to drain
into the grinding razor, only because
those were her mother’s favorite.
When her mom finally came home
in the late hours of the night,
we watched her lather the
pearly pink lipstick onto her luscious lips,
slip a black dress over her defined curves,
and wiggle it up to her armpits.
Her thick hair grasped the curling iron
and twisted strong enough to strangle,
releasing beautiful curls of
damaged hair. We watched her leave
again. I woke in the middle of
the night, missing the warmth
of Beda’s body in the little
twin size bed.
When I creeped to the living
room, Beda and her mom lay
on the couch wrapped in their own
perfect world for just one night.
When her mom would slither out from her
grips in the early hours, I would slip my
body in her place and wrap my arms around
my best friend again.