This is my first posting
I look forward to your comments
She�s dead. That�s what I thought while I was walking
home from the bus. The other houses were clamping shut
after their kids returned home. I could smell the
cookies, see the arms opened from mothers who pined
all day while their beloved children were at school.
The clouds are moving around, fluttering over the
trees taunting us that a thunderstorm will soon slip
around and grab us. The wind blew smacking the
shutters shut and carrying the smell of fried fish all
the way from the sea port to my nose. There goes Jack
into his house with his black hair waving around his
head and his book bag banging against his knee. There
goes Calista- she�s the one who has no germs- she
tells me everyday that her mother said that she
doesn�t have germs and that I do because I�m always
sick. I tell her I�m not really always sick I just
pretend I�m sick so I don�t have to go to school. It
doesn�t matter now I think as I head towards the house
with eyes- my house on the corner at the end of the
street near the woods. I hate our house the windows
look like eyes. Before I even get there I know that
she�s dead. I know it. In my gut. I�m finally going to
be an orphan. Part of me is relieved and then the
other part of me starts to panic. I twirl my hair
around my finger so tightly I think I might actually
rip it out.
When I get to the house it�s empty. There is no key
under the mat. There is no open door. I go around to
the side of the house, poked my arm through the rose
bushes very carefully so that I wouldn�t scratch
myself, popped out the screen of the kitchen window,
pulled myself up, scraped my knee on the metal and
fell into the kitchen. �Hello?� there wasn�t anyone
home. I know she�s dead. She probably drank too much
of that horrible raspberry whiskey and took too many
of those little white pills the doctor gave her for
her bad back. I go upstairs and check out the bedroom.
Empty. The bed is made. The smell of cigarettes
lingers slightly which means that Mimi is here or is
coming. She could still be dead I think again as I
head to the refrigerator and pull out the peanut
butter. This is my favorite part of the day. I have an
entire routine down. I pull out the peanut butter
stick it in the microwave until it melts just a
little, put on the television that sits on the
counter, open the shades so that I can see the gray
warm sky as I dip my crackers into the melted peanut
butter and watch Phil Donohue talk about how hard it
is to be a grown up. I can�t help it but I keep
glancing at the clock. It�s only 3:15.
3:20. 3:30. She should be here. She�s usually here by
now but if she�s dead then she�s never coming home
again. I imagine her car wrapped around a tree and
her blonde moppy head bouncing around like my doll. Or
I imagine that she just dies. That�s it. No excuses,
no explanations, she�s just had enough. Aunt Mimi is
definitely coming to visit. I knew this because there
was a big bottle of Whiskey on the counter with a
purple satin bag around it and a ribbon on top and
next to that was a big glass ashtray that was always
waiting for Aunt Mimi who would stroll in with her
long blonde hair, her long cigarette holder and dab a
little of her ashes here and there and I would follow
her putting out the ashes worried that they would set
the house on fire. How could she be getting ready for
Aunt Mimi if she�s dead? Just then the garage door
rumbled and I threw out the peanut butter before I
could even really enjoy the melted chocolate.
Damn-She�s not dead. She just went to get a facial
that lasted too long and she forgot about me.
And you know Jessica if you eat that you�re going to
be a little fatty! And mommy doesn�t want a little
I thought you were dead.
She laughs and dumps a bag at my feet. I peer inside
to see an ugly white shirt and blue socks.
For your uniform. For your new school.
I rolled the shirt up in a ball and threw it at her.
I thought you were dead!
Aunt Mimi is coming for dinner with cousin cheri.
Cheri. Oh god.
Cheri is the tall stunning breast popping snot who
goes to private school and loves to come and show me
all the boys who have tried to kiss her and all the
ones that she�s going to sleep with. Whatever I just
think she looks like a big slut with her cherry
colored hair that I know she got out of a box from
Rite Aid and her mother putting those plastic fake
nails on her hands that she pretends are real. No one
has cherry colored hair at 14. And I seriously think
that she stuffs her bra. Because there isn�t anyone
around in our family whose got boobs like her.
Whatever. I spend two hours a day in the bathroom
squeezing my boobs together and pushing them up and
tugging on them because Magda my best friend said that
her sister Maria who is the most popular girl at
Winslow high did that for two years when she was 12
like me and she got huge boobs. But now that they are
finally starting to sprout I�m thinking I want to
change my mind because my dad is always noticing.
He�ll say Jessie look at you you�re sprouting beans
And my face will get all hot and I�ll tug on my shirt.
She needs a bra, my mother will say with a cigarette
dripping out of her mouth and her hair in curlers as
she rolls around the house trying to cook, clean and
get ready for their big Friday night out.
I don�t want a bra!
She don�t need a bra- them things aren�t enough to
fill a bra yet Frannie.
What do you know about it?
I know what I know and that girl doesn�t need a bra
yet- she�s only 12.
Why can�t we have hamburgers tonight?
Yeah, I want hamburgers. Jack my little brother
smashes his fist on the table upsetting the glasses
that I just put down and Dad grabs his wrists real
tightly until Jack�s little face turns white and he
sits down quietly in his chair.
You know we don�t have meat on Fridays Jack why do you
The door bell rings.
Oh that�s Mimi! Frannie skids across the kitchen
floor, frying pan in hand, hair flying out of her
rollers. Dad takes his plate and disappears into the
Why can�t I go watch tv and eat dinner like Pop?
Jack you get your little butt down at this table and
you too Jessie- you are eating dinner here at the
table, under God. Now sit down.
She dumps the fried fish, soaking in oil, onto our
plates and then zips off to grab the door. I watch
from the kitchen as Jack pokes at his fried fish. He
rolls it up into a ball and puts it in his pocket.
I hate Fridays. I hate Mimi. Jack grabs the jar of
peanut butter and disappears upstairs. I�m left alone
at the table with the dead greasy fried fish.
MIMI!!!!!! Frannie yells and jumps on her sister
wrapping her legs around her waist and swinging
My wife is a damn fool. Is all we hear from Dad in the
They do their dance together. They woop and bump their
butts together in the hallway of our house and then
Mimi pretends that she�s too old to be doing such
things and pulls out one of her long lady ciggies and
puts on her black gloves- which are coming back into
style- she says this every year and waits for Cheri to
pull out her gold lighter and light the cigarette.
It�s all very dramatic.
Come here dahling.
She reaches for me and tugs my hair. Child you need to
do something with this hair. Frannie how come you let
this girl look like this? I mean she is one of us- our
blood you know. The girls from New Orleans don�t go
around with hair like this.
I know Mimi but she won�t listen. I mean she still
wears undershirts for christ�s sake!
They gasp. Cheri and Mimi. I can feel my skin burning
and I want to take Mimi�s cigarette and stick it on my
arm until all the hair singes off.
We�re in the car on the way to Macy�s before they
My mother is passing her silver flask back to Mimi as
she drives. I keep my eyes peeled for the police.
Because even in 1979 you can get arrested for drinking
and driving- even I know that. Cheri is busy putting
on her makeup and her purse is spilling all over the
black leather seats. I hate the black leather seats
they get hot and I slide all over because I�m
So how is he?
You know the same. Nothing�s changed much. We still
see each other. My mother says and then lights the
I put my hand over my ears and Cheri gives me the
arched eyebrow that she�s practiced for hours in the
mirror. She rolls her eyes- another art that she has
It�s not attractive to do that Jesse. Take your hands
off of your ears!
She�s just so sensitive I can�t stand it sometimes. I
was never like that- I�m not a prickly little cactus.
I mean she doesn�t even get it that we are out here to
get her a bra so her boobs don�t sag down to her feet
when she�s 20. You know there is no gratitude when
you�re a mother. You will appreciate this someday
Maybe she doesn�t want to hear about your affair,
Cheri pipes up and slaps her lipstick shut and I can�t
believe what I�m hearing. Did she just defend me?
That�s enough out of you Cheri,� Mimi scolds. We are
the women of this family girls- you are a part of us-
we share our secrets it�s the family code. You don�t
talk about this stuff with those people out there-
there is no one out there who will be there for you
like the women in this car, there is no one out there
who has your best interests at heart like the women in
this car, we are the women of this family and we are
all we have and don�t either of you ever forget it
because when men start to disappoint you and they
start to lose the things you thought you couldn�t live
without it�s here in this car with these women that
you will find solace. Out there everyone is going to
want to take what you have and don�t you ever, ever
forget it they don�t say that blood is thicker than
water for no reason mon petites cherries.
And we went into Macy�s and bought me my first bra.
The woman was pulling and tugging on me and then
finally resigned herself with her stupid measuring
tape to tell my mother.
�She�s mostly baby fat, I don�t even know if she needs
�Of course she needs a bra! And this dear Frannie is
why I never shop retail for my Cheri. We should have
gone to my lady in the city. She knows what to do for
special cases like Jesse-with her little weight
I roam away from them into the racks of clothes, in
between the clothes, hiding in the middle,it�s like a
little Island on the metal bars and I wonder if I hold
my breath if they will ever find me. I could live here
in the mall. There�s the food court so I wouldn�t get
hungry, the bookstore so I wouldn�t get lonely, and
all the beds and comfy pillows in Macys that I could
sleep on. Maybe if I hide here long enough they�ll
never notice and they�ll get all the way home and
it�ll be too late..
Her hand is tight on my arm and she pulls me out of
the rack so hard that it tips over and all the silk
panties and bras topple over on top of each other
causing the saleslady to squeal and run around.
What is wrong with you!? You are 12 years old Jesse!
12! You will be a woman next year or sooner! You can�t
be hiding in clothes racks like a ten year old- like
Jack would do! I don�t know what to do with her Mimi.
You know I think that you�re right. I think she should
stay with you for awhile. Maybe I�m just not capable
of handling a 12 year old. I mean look at me I don�t
even look old enough to have a 12 year old. She stops
in front of the mirror and glances at her face and
pulls on her skin. No wrinkles here.
Dahling, there is no reason to have a fit in the
store. Let�s take our business outside.
So you�re not getting her the bra? I mean I really
think she needs it, �Cheri snaps her gum as she holds
up two different types. Frannie her eyes bulging out
of her head making her look like that circus freak
lady who can pop her eyes out of head and then they
roll around on the ground.
�Get the goddamn bra then! J.C. almighty Lord why am I
saddled with this life??�
Mimi grabs Frannie and ushers her to the cashier while
I sit back with Cheri who takes out her makeup bag and
starts to dab at my cheeks.
What are you doing?
You know Jess you have a really pretty face. You
should try some of this stuff. And you know coming to
live with us in the city might not be such a bad idea.
She pats my lips with some Vaseline and then turns me
to look in the mirror. The girl looking back at me is
so pretty I almost cry. I grab Cheri�s arm.
Show me where to buy this stuff.
She smiles just as Mimi and Frannie come flying
towards us. Frannie grabs me and kisses my head hard
as she squeezes me tightly and I stiffen.
Why don�t you ever want to kiss your mama? Do you know
I was in labor for three days with you child?
I force a smile as she hands me the bag with the bra
That night Frannie and Mimi turn up the soul music as
my dad calls it and they dance while they get ready
for their big night out. All I can hear is the clink
clink of Mimi�s whiskey that floats around between the
glaciers of ice. Cheri steals a sip when Mimi isn�t
looking and then offers me some. I don�t want to try
it because if my mother smells it on me she�ll be me
to death with the belt but Cheri is winking at me and
for once I want her to like me so I do it and it
burns. It rips my throat apart as it goes down- why
would anyone want to drink this stuff? It�s poison!
Cheri laughs at my face.
You look like a turtle when you do that!
Glad I could entertain you while I�m dying here.
Just give it a few minutes.
Three hours later Cheri and I were lounging on the
hammock listening to Led Zeppelin and watching the
shooting stars that happen every now and then.
Do you think everyone�s family is crazy? I ask just as
my mother, wearing a plastic red fireman�s cap is
carrying the fish tank, with Mimi�s help to the patio
where they are going to dump out the water and clean
Henry my gold fish.
They are going to kill him I think but I can�t feel my
feet so running to them is not an option.
I try not to think about any of it, Cheri says and
lights a cigarette. I mean who really cares when the
sky looks like this and I�m only there for three more
years tops and then she�s alone and that�s enough
punishment for her I think.
Frannie will go nuts if she�s ever left alone.
Mimi drops her end of the fish tank and it crashes and
the water rolls down the patio into the grass creating
a puddle of mud.
What the hell are you stupid women doing?
Dad has come out from the darkness in his underwear
scratching his head.
Mimi and Frannie are hysterical laughing as they sit
on the patio talking to the fish the water floating
all around them.
You little fishie you want to come out and play.
I tried to get up and save Henry but my legs were like
glue to the hammock.
Cheri was snoring and I couldn�t push her off the
hammock to get to him my eyes were closing and very
heavy and I kept thinking that if I just push myself
up I won�t drown but it was too late..I fell asleep.
I woke up freezing. My teeth were chattering so hard I
thought I would break them. Cheri was gone and I was
alone in the yard. When I cleared my eyes I ran over
to the broken fish tank and realized that yes indeed
Henry was dead. I picked him up and rubbed his little
back. Come on Henry you can do it- wake up. But he
didn�t move. Not an inch. Nothing. That�s it! I�ve had
I took Henry and slammed into the house. Mimi was
sleeping on the couch, snoring and the smell of
pancakes was drifting through the house.
No! I�m not fucking hungry!
Frannie turned to me with the spatula in her hand and
smacked my face so hard that Henry went flying into
You don�t talk to your mother like that ever young
lady do you hear me?!
Do you hear me?!?!
I don�t care- go ahead hit me again you big drunk- you
YOU KILLED MY FISH!
I don�t know what on earth you are going on about
child. I did no such thing?!
Yes you did! I saw you! I saw you and Mimi doing
something with the fish tank last night and I found
Henry on the patio this morning-dead!
Well dahling you do have a crazy imagination. I did no
such thing. Mimi and I went to sleep around midnight
after we tucked you girls in.
Tucked us in? We slept on the hammock! Cheri! Cheri!
I went around the house looking for my cousin and I
found her in the bedroom tucked into the spare twin
Jess! Come on down honey and have some pancakes. I
made your favorite with strawberry sauce come on
She rolls over and pulls up her eye mask. What?
�When did you come inside? Why didn�t you wake me up?�
�I�m asleep. �
She rolls back over and moans.
I go to the bathroom and flush Henry down the toilet.
I�m sorry Henry. He gets swallowed up by the bubbling
water and I never see him again.
This is what I think of when I�m taking my own 12 year
old son to get his first fish.
Yes honey I�m ready, ok is that the one that you want?
He nods vigorously and grabs the plastic bag from the
kid who looks like he�s stoned.
In the car on the way home I put my hands on the
leather seats and it burns but I don�t move it.
Mom put the AC on or it�ll kill him-
What are you going to name him?
I don�t know- maybe Marlin or something
Henry? No. That�s a dumb name.
I nod and turn on the AC full blast. He hops eagerly
in the seat and we drive home.
We pass my high school.
Travis you know-
That is where I will go to high school.
I don�t know why I point this out everytime I pass the
large campus that over looks a valley but I do as if
it�s new information as if it�s going to interest my
twelve year old son in any way.
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