|Peggy Newland - Short
When Mama couldn't have another baby, I knew I could find her one.
"Going out," I told Mama that first time, but she said nothing as usual, only staring out the kitchen window at the empty field in the back lot. And Daddy, he was never home back then. He knew to stay away until early evening. And then he'd sit in the garage with the radio turned low until Mama screamed for him.
I filled my pockets with stones from the river, just in case, and then I took one of the burlap sacks from the shed because that's what I'd seen on television shows when you didn't want the person knowing where he or she was going. I even got my room ready. My bed shoved away from the window so nobody would jump out, chairs piled into a corner, and some stolen jars of peanut butter, jelly, and crackers in my closet . Because you'd never know what the kid would want. And I always wanted peanut butter and jelly. But not on crackers. Bread gets black gunk on it once it gets old so the kid would have to do with crackers until he was ready to be introduced to the family.
Those stones in my pockets, that sack under my tee shirt. And soon you'll be happy, I wanted to say to Mama as I watched her from the shed. But I didn't. I just went.....
- excerpt from Daedalus - Spring 2007
Sometimes it appears in the sky. Once in a while, it lays frozen at your feet. But this time, when it fell out of a tree, I got a little freaked out. Not exactly ready for it. The way it wrapped its arms around its chest, legs slamming against the ground, then all of that white covering it, making it disappear. Like it never happened.
I guess thatís what made me go out there.
Into the storm.
Lifting it from the heavy snow, I think, Poor guy, so young, so full of dreams and adventure, did he marry, have children, find a home? But then the damn thing lurches toward my throat, claws scratching, so of course I drop it, send it spiraling. Its beady black eyes looking through me with a Get the hell away from me, Cabin Girl, go back to your green tea and hummus sandwich, New York Times crossword and NPR, we donít give a shit about you anyway squirrel attitude and then its sullen scamper away. No warm heart-felt glances, no clasped squirrel paws, no moment of gratitude at what weíve been through together, furry animal and fucked up girl; itís just his bushy tail shaking and incessant chattering, chattering on those icy branches. So, I think, hey, Iím all done here-- no more rescuing any more of their twitchy asses. Even when the other ones start coming at me, fur and claws and flailing fists balled tight before crashing.
Iím a little out of whack.
Must be the storm.
Iíll call home.
"Quick, turn on the television," Mama says first thing, like she says every time I call her.
Pissed off squirrels cartwheel down, drowning in the drifts. I turn away and stare at the burnt out fire, my crumpled newspapers....
Iím looking down at blue ice, cramped spineless trees and the grooves of packed machine snow. Its damn cold, just patchy sun, so I pull on a full face gator, feel the bite of it cutting against my chin, over my cheeks, tiny circles for eyes. A mask that keeps me well hidden as I look down at the cabin at the base of the mountain where Dad sits staring upward. I can almost see the glint of his wheelchair as he rolls it back and forth, waiting...
The social worker tells me he canít take care of himself any longer. That heís been calling 911 when he falls. That the catheter sometimes falls out and there have been accidents. That heíd be better off going to the Pine Home where heíd be cared for. The social workerís face shrinks as she says this, holding my fatherís file. I didnít know he had a file, about his life, his health, possible death scenarios. ďOkay,Ē I say and I hear the squeak of Dadís wheelchair as he turns the television on loud, Maury with the prostitutes again...
This is what it is: screeching frozen tundra of my childhood catching light, the black and white rush of skis beneath my feet, a state of mind that has no words. This is what it is, volume turned down and me listening as a kid shouts do it again, waiting in the lift line for another run. And itís not the why or the weight of the world but the tugging downward of the senses, remembrance in pieces of coming home. Bringing me back to Maine.
- excerpt from Northern New England Review - 2004
Four Mickeys Smoking
the first Mickey takes his head off in the office, it doesnít really
bother me. I donít really give a shit because who believes in those
characters anyway? Pluto, Ariel, Cinderella, my sister loves them,
sleeps with them every night. Like sheís protected by them. Ha. But my
sisterís only three so thatís what sheís supposed to believe, that
everything has a happy ending and everything is a song and everything is
good. But I know itís all bullshit.
I stare at that
Mickey in his gay little suit and kind of laugh at his sweaty fat face.
Heís old, with wrinkles and everything, not what youíd expect a
Mickey to look like underneath but who expects anything anymore. I
He pushes his bald head against the wall and closes his eyes,
rubbing the space between his eyebrows like Dad does when heís real
pissed. But Mickey has these really big white gloves on so itís like
his whole hand is on his face. Like heís suffocating himself.
Dad slams his fist into the wall inside the managerís office next door. Again. And no one does anything about it, the men with their walkie talkies, the nice lady in pink with the smelly perfume that makes me want to gag, my mom with her head in her lap. They just stand and watch him do it again and again until the policemen come with their guns, their handcuffs. Everyone ignores me, they just told me to sit in this hallway between the offices and wait. But itís been like a long time now and I havenít even been on Space Mountain, havenít even done Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Excerpt from Chelsea 75
Conte - August 2006