Jessica Alexander

If You See Something, Say Something

The sniper has shot all the girls on the block but Marie and me.

Marie says he only shoots lit­tle girls.  She’s too old for that sort of thing.   She’s look­ing for a spy kit she leant me two years ago.

I’ve flopped onto the bed.  I’m look­ing at the ceil­ing.  I ask Marie to lie down beside me.  I’ve been dole­ful late­ly.

My win­dows face west, where the sniper lives.  At four I drape sheets over the cur­tain rods, so he won’t see me.   When I sleep I tug my sheets until they fall back to the mat­tress.

Most nights I drink milk on my roof and look for him.

Marie says he nev­er shoots girls on rainy or mug­gy after­noons.

Marie has found a water gun instead.  I get up.  Don’t come any clos­er, she says.  She points the gun at me.  You’d bet­ter start talk­ing.

I’ve lost all enthu­si­asm for our con­ver­sa­tions.  I no longer inter­ject.

Marie thought maybe if I saw some­thing, I’d have more to say.  She took me to an instal­la­tion at the Parkside Armory.  She thinks I ought to be a lit­tle more art­ful about it all.  She, for exam­ple, is a good dancer.  The truth is I imag­ine my destruc­tion will be per­son­al and sin­gu­lar.  I think she’s being rather insen­si­tive.  She thinks I’m a child and I ought to grow up a lit­tle before I die.

I go to the kitchen.  I walk to the freez­er, emp­ty the ice tray onto the floor.  I watch cubes skit­ter beneath the cab­i­nets.  I lack inten­tion­al­i­ty, Marie would say.  I’d been aim­ing for the glass.  I leave it emp­ty and take my first bot­tle of gin to the roof with me.

Last Thursday anoth­er girl got shot around the time I walk to school. I didn’t go that day.  Marie called from a pay­phone in the cafe­te­ria, and asked if I’d been shot.  I said I had not.  She decid­ed, since it would not be long before I got shot, we ought to talk more often.

That after­noon I bought my first bot­tle of gin.  The man behind the glass asked how old I was. He looked me over.  Enough?

Yes, I said, enough.

It was a per­fect day with the autumn cool­ness in dying leaves and the sun hit­ting my face when I came out from under the shade.  Everyone on the block sat on stoops behind the yel­low tape, and looked at me like I’d walked into their kitchen.  I was dead meat, Marie assured me.  It was my kitchen they were sit­ting in.  The next day they put up signs that said if you see some­thing, say some­thing.

Marie took me to see an instal­la­tion at the Parkside Armory.  From out­side the instal­la­tion looked like pas­tel silks thrown over dinosaur bones.  The inside looked like the stom­ach of some­thing alive.  We stood at the apex look­ing through silk to the dimmed lights and sand­bags that dan­gled from ceil­ing rafters like ton­sils.  I do not under­stand art.  Marie says art is easy.  You say it is like life, there­fore life is x.  I could not even say it was beau­ti­ful, but grabbed Marie by the col­lar.  I said I don’t want to leave it.  She tugged me along a tun­nel that spat us back under vault­ed ceil­ings, into armory halls, between staffroom walls where por­traits of civ­il war gen­er­als and moose heads hung, onto cool streets where the sun like a bul­let wound bled through the leaves and every­thing became every­thing all over again.  Marie loos­ened my fin­gers from her throat.  Stop shout­ing, she said, and say more. END.

~

Jessica Alexander is a can­di­date for the Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Utah. The two pieces in this issue of Blip Magazine are her first pub­lished work.