Iím on the ground with what feels like a broken
knee cap. Every beagle we own is down there with me, licking my
face. Iím trying to be still, to focus like my father says, to
slowly force something back into its place. My mother usually does
this with lotioned hands. When I feel a pop, I know I can stand up
again, and itís as though nothing ever happened. This is my knee.
Almost every day. ďYouíll grow,Ē my father says, ďand your bones
will adjust.Ē My father is a doctor but not of medicine.
Thereís a pile of lumber at the back door. My
father has been teaching me to use the anvil and axe, to split
bigger blocks of wood into smaller. I can get halfway through a
piece of wood and then he finishes.
There are unclaimed cats in our barn, a red
salamander under the rock by the tree where we park our cars.
Thereís barbed wire, wild ginger, birds in the well water, foxes in
the morning, bobcats at night, no more chickens. I get lost in these
things all day.
At the grocery store I ask for Captain Crunch,
but my mother is unrepentant and always chooses Chex or Cheerios.
Once I got Apple Jax by mistake. I was with my father because my
mother was sick on the couch with her book.
In my dreams all those animals talk. I see
their eyes in my window, like glowing blue stars and hear them at
the foot of my bedóthe pads of their feet, their dew claws in my
blankets, their high, unpracticed words in my ear. Itís some other
language, but I know what they mean.
Sometimes friends come over. We talk about
which boys like us, which boys are hunky, which ones will get us in
trouble. I paint nails, canít stay in the lines too well. I learn to
wear my hair in a twist and how to look pretty in jeans.
When my mother leaves, itís not like the other
kids with divided weekends and holidays. First, she leaves to the
hospital in the city and it takes two hours to drive there each day.
After a month or so, my father talks of moving to an apartment
closer to her. I miss too much school. Letters come in the mail
about it and we might have to tell it to a judge.
Iím in and out. Seeing her in robes and gowns,
then naked and bathed by a nurse. My father sneaks in root beer and
Snickerís bars. My mother finishes and gives him the evidence, which
collects in the floorboards of our car. Some days itís gray inside
the room and motherís window only holds a couple of birds and the
limbs of an Oak tree moving in the wind. Sometimes the sun shines
all over us and we have to remove our sweaters. We spend a lot of
time talking over a checker board. I take her tea cup down the hall
and the nurses warm the water in their microwave. The doctor kisses
my hand like a lady. My mother tells me all the secrets anyone has
ever told her. I keep jumping her checkers, but I know sheís letting
Lydia Copeland's stories have appeared
or are forthcoming in Quick Fiction, Glimmer Train, elimae,
Pindeldyboz, Dozplot and others. Her chapbook Haircut
Stories is available from the Achilles Chapbook Series and as
part of the part chapbook collective Fox Force 5 from Paper
Hero Press. She works in Manhattan and lives in New Jersey with her
husband and son.