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Lesley Dame

 

The Answer

 

Even if it were a beacon, you’d be terrified.

I mean, come on, this sudden light flashes

in the starless sky and you’re, what, happy?

 

You know that doesn’t make sense. You know

that nothing is free; day and night each

have their own purpose. You are a moving

statue. You have no choice.

 

Now! says the light. Not yet, says the voice

inside your cold heart.

MER 12

Selections

Stephanie Feuer



Drumstick


The adults were downstairs.  Their voices mingled with the smell of turkey and came up through the heating vent in my older cousin Mitchell’s room.  The windows of his room were all steamy. Outside the snow fell, perfect for sledding.  We’d driven from New York to spend Thanksgiving with them in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  It felt like nowhere.

We were inside because he didn’t like to play outdoors with me, because, I suspected I could throw a ball harder and shoot baskets better and I was a girl and only 8.  He’d want to play football.  He was 13 and stronger, but if I got a chance to run, he’d say I cheated.  Then I’d cry and he’d tell the adults I was a sore loser.  The adults usually believed him.  Sometimes I was a sore loser, but mostly he hurt me.

He asked me if I ever played doctor with my friends.  I told I’d played with my neighbor Larry, that summer in the miniature log cabin that decorated my parent’s suburban back lawn.  Then Mitchell asked me to do something with him, a special game of doctor.

Why should I? I questioned him.  His answer was the same answer he gave about mostly everything.  “Because I lost a sister,” he’d say and half-close his dark brown eyes.  His sister, Lisa, was a year older than me and had died at 6 of encephalitis.  I didn’t really believe her death excused his behavior, but I couldn’t argue with it.

It seemed an odd thing to do.  It wasn’t anything I’d heard of, and I thought I’d heard a lot because I’d spent so much time at the nursing home my father ran.  I knew all about health conditions, catheters and cheating boyfriends from eavesdropping on the nurses.  What Mitchell was talking about I hadn’t heard of. 

I stared at the molding.  It was a red and white stencil my aunt had done herself.  She was crafty like that, and a really good cook.  Even my grandmother said she made the best version of the family stuffing recipe.  I liked to cook, too, and longed to be in the kitchen with the good smells and women.

Mitchell grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me towards him.  He unzipped his pants, and with his hand at the back of my neck, pushed me towards his lap.  My face rubbed against the navy blue carpet.  It burned the skin of my cheek.  There were red flecks in the carpet.  Eraser residue.  I struggled, but he was bigger.  He held me down for a moment.  It was hard to breathe.

“Suck like a lollipop,” he told me.  It was kind of squishy, not like anything I’d had in my mouth before.  I didn’t understand why this strange act was what he wanted so much, or why he got away with everything, just cause his sister had died. 

I heard the wood stairs creak.  I froze.  Was this something I’d get in trouble for?    

“Its turkey time,” my father announced in a jovial voice, stopping on a step half way up the stairs. 

I jerked at the sound of his voice.  I must have hurt Mitchell, or maybe he was afraid of being caught.  He pushed my head away, hard, slapped me, and zipped up his pants. 

“He’s hitting me,” I said and started to cry.  “Cry baby, cry baby,” he sneered.

“Work it out, you two,” my father said, no longer sounding so cheerful, “and come down to eat.”

My uncle carved the beautifully cooked turkey, its juices escaping from its bronzed skin and puddling on the big wood cutting board.  I took my seat at the table, next to Mitchell.  My uncle asked my father and me if we’d like to share a drumstick.  You take it, I told my father, I don’t have much of an appetite.