Korey

by editorialmonster

At home, Demeter curses her for ingrate 
while she moons, and goes ignored: her daughter’s lost to her, and to this world. She’s got her own.

– Nicole Kornher-Stace, Persephone, Returned

1

     My name was just Korey, then. I was my mother’s only child. I had no father I knew. I grew up in a small town, in the country.

A carnival came to the big field, back behind the house I shared with my mother. I didn’t know the carnival was coming to town that day. Just passing time and I saw it. I climbed over the back fence, and stood in the field behind the house where the grass grew wild and our small town ended in fields and fields and fields of long grass right up to the mountains. It was evening twilight. The stars were already peeking out from beyond the veil of the blue sky. Bugs jumped from stalk to stalk. I held my hands out to run them along the wispy tips of the grass. The bugs were going to the carnival, too, I reckon, after the bright lights and the sweet cotton candy. I heard the music over the hill. I wasn’t expecting music like that – old music, like the kind they’d play for tap dancers. I wanted to go.

My mother said to me “Got the brain of a frog sometimes, girl” when I asked her. Then, when I asked her again, “No, and I mean it. You’ve got work in the morning.”

I’m eighteen. I leave for college over the mountain and in a big city in just three weeks. I should be old enough to know if I can stay out late one night, be bleary-eyed one morning. I shouldn’t have to listen to my mother go on like that anymore.

Nothing ever changes here. It is that long summer before the freshmen year of college, when nothing ever changes. Every day, I work at the gas station, watching cars come and go. I hand out cigarettes, beer, and lottery tickets and check IDs for the underage kids from my high school class that think I’ll let them pass with their fake IDs. “Come on, Korey… Please.”

“You know I can’t. I could be arrested.”

“Fuck. Just fuck.”

Got the brain of a frog sometimes, those boys, buying sodas and lingering at the counter to tell me all about what they’ll be doing next year, as if anything will change between us. They will always be the hometown boys, too shy to try to kiss me behind the diner when we’re walking home from dates and too embarrassed where anyone will see. (The man who runs the seed-washing truck is old and tired and complains of all the companies coming in to monopolize the seed whether folks are listening or not and he’s drunk, again, shouting about it, and stumbling around the alley to piss and there we are – us kids looking at him, boy and girl – and he nods at us before pulling his business out and pissing at the wall as if we weren’t there at all.) None of the boys will kiss me in this town. I’ll go through a whole summer and never kiss anyone before I go to college, and when I finally get to college, and finally fall in love, the boy’ll lean over at me all expectantly and I’ll lean in, and then he’ll get confused and embarrassed because I’ll be kissing all wrong.

I remember the ferris wheel rising over the fresh-mowed grass like an insect’s paradise – all lights and intricate architectures of girders and beetle-shell cars. All those colors, and all those smiling faces. Used to go all the time, my mother and I walked up the dirt path to the traveling carnivals – past the rusty pickups pressed together like prize-winning pumpkins in the grass. All those people, and all of them people I’ve seen around town forever and ever, except for the ones in grease paint – smiling, walking on stilts, balloons in hand.

I wondered if they were real. In that long summer – that in-between summer – I couldn’t imagine the world beyond the mountains, where the carnival came from. Then, I looked up at the full moon on a clear night sky and tried to imagine how big the planet was by how far away it was in the sky. I couldn’t imagine it. I couldn’t imagine a continent over the mountains, teeming with people I didn’t know, who had lives that did not concern mine, and who didn’t live in the kinds of cities where you can’t change the toilet paper, the people don’t hear about it. How could any boy declare his love when he knew it would stay with him – hanging over his head – and all the good people of the town would never let him go from his words?

How could I disobey my mother’s will when everything I did would be home before I got there? Whatever I thought I was doing at the carnival that night, I knew it would haunt me in the morning.

2

     The piano in my mother’s study reminded me of the coffin. We had to get men to move the piano. It barely fit in the front room, by itself. There was no room for coffins, unless they placed the body on the strings inside. The piano had followed my mother from her mother, who had inherited it from my great-great-grandmother who was once an opera singer in Europe. It was all we had of her. It was out of tune, and neither one of us knew how to play it.

I wore a blue dress, and I thought about the piano in the front room.

3

     When I sat at the piano, pushing down the keys one at a time, bored. My mother was in the kitchen, listening to talk radio. I don’t know what she was doing in the kitchen. She was either making something, or cleaning up after making something. Either way, she wasn’t listening to me, and she didn’t want me going to the carnival.

I asked my mother if I could watch the carnival lights from the back porch, at least, until bed time, after dinner. “Want to waste your time, go right ahead, but you be in ‘fore dark.” She would sit in a chair, watching cable news loud enough to drown out the carnival music in the living room, I knew.

I watched the bugs collecting on the carnival lights, and all the people in my world walking among the newcomers. This was the kind of carnival run by art school dropouts – that’s what my mother called it. I liked it. They had gypsy costumes, and jugglers with greasepaint smiles to make them always look happy. They had feats of strength, mimes, fire-breathing men, and strange stage shows that were probably metaphors for something.

I never should have jumped the fence, but she couldn’t define my life forever. In three weeks, I was to be alone in a city I had barely driven through once to visit the campus, teeming with new people. I could go to the carnival one night in summer. She couldn’t punish me anymore.

At supper, mother said she knew what I wanted to ask her. She poked her beans with a sour face. She started to speak, then stopped. She ran a hand through her hair and tried again. “Korey, have you been reading anything good?”

“Not today.”

“I worry you not reading enough. When I was your age, I read all the time. All the classic stories, mostly. They’re all love stories. They’re fun.”

I nodded. I didn’t say that I never knew my father’s name. I never said that.

“Read something. Anything you want. College, they’ll be making you read all sorts of crazy shit. Best get in the habit.”

“Can I go to the carnival?”

“You got money you ain’t takin’ with you in the fall?”

“Please?”

“Girl, you know you’ll be worn out for work in the morning. What I supposed to say you all cranky and everybody blames me?

“Come with me, ma. We won’t stay out too late. When’s the last time you left the house.”

“Fresh strawberries for dessert. You like strawberries. Don’t be mopin’ about.”

“It’s just a carnival, ma – Jesus fucking Christ.”

She pursed her lips.

“What?”

“Nothin’. Wouldn’t listen to me anyhow. Going out late when you got work in the morning is no way to go through life.”

After supper, we cleared the dishes together. She washed them. I dried them.

I was drying the last dish. She pressed her lips into the back of my head.

“Good night, babe.”

“Good night, mom.”

She went into the living room to watch the news.

I put the dish down. I walked to the back porch without even looking over my shoulder, to get to a candy apple, warm and sweet enough to make my jaw hurt from the flood of sugar beneath all the lights pulling the bugs of the fields into the bright to brighten the fields in what looked like television snow. I stood in line for the ferris wheel with a boy named James who had hair like Elvis and smelled like his father’s pig farm no matter how much he washed his face and hands and doused himself in cheap cologne. I didn’t mind, but he would never believe me if I said that. He wasn’t going to college in the fall, and he had this faraway look in his eyes when I offered him a bite of the apple. He didn’t want to open his mouth because he had crooked, yellow teeth. Poor kid. I didn’t care about that. I just wanted someone to keep me company. That’s all I wanted. He took a small bite. He said the apple was too hot for him. We waited in line at the ferris wheel.

“James Marshall,” I said. “I have known you all the days of my life. Jesus fucking Christ, James, I’ve known you forever. What are you going to do about it?”

“We’re next in line.” He gave the tickets for the ride. We sat down in the swinging carriage.

“It reminds me of the sun,” I said.

“Why’s that?”

“The chariot of the sun, you know. How it rises and it sets. And the god of the sun rides in the chariot. That’s what it’s like. All the lights.”

He smiled and looked away. “You can see the town from here. All of it.”

We spun down together, and I thought it would be all right if he kissed me once – just once – but I wouldn’t want more than that. I had known him all my life. I knew everything strange there was to know about him – his first girlfriend’s last name that he knocked-up one county over and she had had an abortion, the color of his swimming trunks when he was eight, and how he always carried a firetruck with him in elementary school because he wanted to be one when he grew up – a firetruck, literally. He loved the flashing lights and the size of them.

That’s what I remember about him, anyway. I could do that with anybody in this town. Nothing changes here. It is the long summer between high school and college, and I knew I was leaving him behind for the city, and a new life. When he didn’t kiss me, I pushed the rest of the candy apple into his mouth and ran off, laughing, from him.

Inside a tent, at last, I paid three dollars to see the escape artist. He was an old man, in a white tuxedo. His stage make-up couldn’t smear away the lines of his face. He had hands like a gorilla’s. He was tall and thin, with these giant hands. I think his hat was big on purpose, to make his head look smaller. He had a big head.

His hands were huge and strong, and I couldn’t believe how he slipped the handcuffs off like toys. An off-duty park ranger in the audience tested the handcuffs, and they were real, and no one could get out of them if they were clamped down hard enough, but the escape artist got out of them like they were some kind of hologram every single time. Then, the escape artist was tied in ropes. He was lifted into the air by these ropes, with his hands in more handcuffs and locks and chains. The rope pulled him up into the air. His hat popped off his head. We all watched the hat fall. We missed it when he slipped out of the ropes and chains. His suit stayed in the air. It was magic.

We cheered for him. His make-up had smeared and the black edges of his lips had mussed up into a maudlin grin. His eyebrows had been wiped away entirely. He had on funny underwear, with red hearts, and suspenders over a white tank top. He acted surprised. He clowned embarrassment for a moment, before he threatened to tear off his clothes. We shouted for him to do it. We were a crowd that wanted our audience left naked on the stage, with nothing left to show us and no more tricks. He ripped off his clothes to reveal brightly-colored swimming shorts. We cheered for him, of course.

Of course, he brought out a water tank. Of course, we cheered when he climbed into it. We wanted to see him defy death one more time. The off-duty police officer bound him up in chains and locks and tied his feet together. They helped him up to the top of the staircase over the water. We cheered for him.

There was music playing. I remember there was music. Katchaturian, I think. Russian classical music. Romantic stuff. Piano music.

In went the escape artist, into the pool, with a big splash. He was underwater. He was bound up. He wriggled around like a water worm. Bubbles of air fled his nose for the surface.

He sank. He sank and sank. He was on the floor of the big, glass tank of water. He struggled.

We watched. We cocked our heads. We held our breath. He struggled more. More air left.

He stopped moving. He became very still. We gasped. Was it just a trick? No one from the carnival had rushed on-stage. No one was doing anything. It had to be a trick. This had to be the act, and he’s going to jump up any second from the cage.

“Somebody…” a shout, but I don’t know from whom, “Somebody do something!”

Oh, God, we watched him die! We stood there, like we were expecting him to escape.

His body limped in the water as if in formaldehyde, his make-up giving him that formaldehyde look the way it caked against his swollen skin. His eyes opened a little, but not all the way.

We didn’t know what to do.

The curtain closed. The show was over. Everyone of us went home. No one said anything. The off-duty park ranger ran up to the stage to try and figure it out. I heard the sound of a splash, but I knew it was too late. The escape artist was dead.

In my room, that night, I stared at the ceiling and tried to forget what I had seen, but I couldn’t forget. None of us could forget. We’d be telling this story for years, about the magician from the carnival that had drowned right before our eyes. At work, people asked me if I had been there, that day. I was selling them cigarettes. They asked me if I had heard about the man who had died – the escape artist. I said that I had been there, and I had seen it.

My mother never said anything. She sat in the piano room and sipped her tea and read a book. She was dwarfed by the instrument, and I had to crane my neck to get a good look at her. “Mom, want me to make dinner?” “Sure, hon. Anything you want.” “Okay. I’m going to get pizza.” “Got cash?” “My treat.” “Save your money. Get a twenty from my purse. You’ll be needing money in college.”

I remember the things I found in her purse. First, there was a pack of gum. Second, there was a screwdriver. Third, there was a package of kleenex, mostly empty. Fourth, used kleenex. Fifth, her wallet. Sixth, a small photo album. You can tell a lot about a woman from what isn’t in her purse: pens, pads of paper, tampons, a phone, a gun.

Twenty dollars, wrinkled up like a kleenex, slammed in between the receipts and coupons, slipped into my back pocket.

I had to go two blocks for the pizza. It was in a corner store where they kept a grill and a pizza oven in back, dwarfed by the cases of beer and snack foods and cleaning supplies for sale. Some people from the carnival were sitting around a table together. One man sat sideways so he could place his leg over the woman beside him. He leaned forward to blow cigarette smoke in her ear. Smoking inside was illegal. She laughed and smacked his hand. They kept ash in an empty beer bottle. The other two carnies were both men, and they huddled over pizza like someone might take it from them any second, devouring it like drinking in gulps.

I wanted to go over and tell them how sorry I was, but I didn’t know what to say.

Then, the escape artist came out of the restroom. He was still damp, and he still had the remains of the paint on his damp skin. He sat down like it was the most normal thing in the world for him to sit down. He reached for a slice of pizza.

I was afraid to look, then. I stared at the people I knew in the kitchen, making pizza, taking phone orders, preparing to make the drive all over town with deliveries. I wanted to eavesdrop on what they were saying behind me, but they weren’t saying anything.

I turned, and looked. I was rude and stared. A puddle was forming at his feet where his shoes were soaked through and leaking. He had a plain, white shirt on. His wiry arms were like white marble, oozing water.

The group of them – the carnies – got up to leave when I got my pizza. They went out a different door, and I assumed I was alone in the night.

Out the door of the pizza parlor, all the shop fronts were closed for the night. I had a block to go until I reached the street where I lived, the road where I had always, always lived.

Headlights came up from behind me. I looked over my shoulder to wave, but then I knew I didn’t know who it was. I didn’t know the truck, or who owned it. The carnies, I guess. It slowed down. A window came down. An arm waved at me. “Hey! You live around here?” I walked over. “You live here, right? You live here?”

“Yeah.”

“Because we’re lost.”

“The highways only way outta town. North and south. It’s back that way…”

I turned to point back towards the pizza parlor.

I don’t remember anything after that.

4

     There is an orchard somewhere in California – pomegranates – and I’m in a blue dress below the pomegranate tree. The escape artist is here, all dry now. He’s collecting the ripe fruits in a basket.

You awake?

“Oh… Hello.”

Been sleepin’ a while.

“Where am I?”

Here, bet you’re hungry.

He hands me one of the fruits. It’s small in his hands, but huge in mine. I almost drop it. I don’t have any way of opening the pomegranate. I don’t have my purse with me. I don’t have anything.

I put the pomegranate down. I look at it. The fruit is purple and beautiful and it smells so dark. The orchard smells like darkness. The escape artist sits down, leans against the tree. He smashes the pomegranate to open it. The juice is all over his hands. He licks his hands. He hands the fruit to me. He puts his filthy hands behind his head and closes his eyes.

What else do I remember?

There was a space of time between the truck and the orchard, but how long, I can’t say. “Can I use your phone?”

What? Don’t be silly. No phones here. No need to call anyone.

My mother will come here, to the orchard. Everyone does. That’s right. I just have to wait a while, and think about what I remember and it will all make sense.

The carnival trucks come for us. They’ve got places to go. There’s a big, black van in their entourage. It’s huge. It seats almost everyone. The escape artist helps me into the very back seat. I’m surrounded by people I don’t know. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what’s going on.”

Relax. We’re just going down the line. Big show, tonight.

People are trying to sleep in the van. They close their eyes and lean into each other and they breathe quietly. They fart in their sleep. One of them’s snoring, but I can’t tell who it is. The driver doesn’t look old enough to be driving. He doesn’t look back.

I look at the escape artist’s face.

He’s asleep, and he looks like he’s dead. I’m looking out the window at all these trees and houses and buildings passing by, and I don’t know what’s real and what is only a color blurred into a shape by the moving car.

If I can just remember what happened, then I can find a way back home. This can’t be real. Nothing ever changes for me.

I remember my mother made a plum cake, with cream cheese frosting for my birthday. It was a green color – kind of strange if I just looked at it – but it tasted good.

We were alone, in the kitchen. I had come home from school, and done homework at the kitchen table. Mom baked the cake while I worked. It smelled so good. When it was done, I got up and checked on it. Then, it was green and I kind of didn’t want it, a little bit.

I sat back at the table. I did more homework. Then she came in with take-out – burgers and fries – and we sang happy birthday together. I probably shouldn’t have been singing. No presents, just cake. It was enough.

The escape artist is looking at me funny.

What’s your name, kid?

“Korey. Hey, what happened in the big tank. I thought you died. Everyone thought you died.”

Yeah, it’s just a trick.

“Mean trick. You really scared people.”

It’s good for us. The lights turn off. People go home. Good for them. See something, never thought they’d see.

“You die every night?”

Check my pulse if you want. I’m an artist. I only live for the stage.

They set up the rides and tents at the edge of town. The grass has to be mowed down before anybody could do anything. Men reap the yellow grass with scythes. I pluck flowers from their sweeping blows. No one asks me to do anything to help. Then, the tents blossom high and proud in gold and green and purple and red. The ferris wheel stands up on the supporting beams like an insect palace of flashing lights.

A kid sits on a bench at the gate and the turnstiles. He has a filthy face and a smile with missing teeth. He has to squint to see me because the sun is right behind me. Folks off work early wander the tents, smiling. Children chase each other around the tents. The boy at the gate, taking tickets, watches the other children playing like just watching was enough to be playing with them. He laughs when they laugh, claps when they clap. He looks wistfully at their backs when the children dash around a tent, out of sight. I have to snap my finger to get his attention. Oh, hey. You comin’ in?

“Hola, muchacho. I’m comin’ in.”

He looked at me and frowned. What’d you call me?

“How much?”

He pointed at my hand.

That a flower?

“It’s a chrysanthemum.”

Pretty.

“You want it?”

No. Fifty cents gets you in. Unless you got one eye. Then, it’s just a quarter. Pay by the eye. No discounts for blinkers.

I buy my ticket for fifty cents. I have some money left over from the pizza. The carnival tents inside the yard surround the ferris wheel. Folks meander among the tents. Farmers hear about the carnival and come in from the fields for the night. They wave at me from the ferris wheel, all the lights glowing like something from the television and people happy getting on and off. I tell myself it is too soon for me to ride the wheel. That’s the sort of thing for the end of the night. First, I want to see the tents, have my fortune read, witness the freaks and tricks and dancers, and I want to find the escape artist again, wherever he is.

Carnival barkers wave their walking sticks and shout at us all. I stop in front of a picture of a monstrous creature – part tree, part man – hand-painted like something from my mother’s childhood.

From Peru! From the dark, pagan tribes of wild negroes in Peru! A wooden idol – part man, part tree! Do you risk the curse of the devil!

Inside the hut, some kids huddle in the center of the tent. They don’t look up at me. They stare at the curtain. I hear footsteps, and a heavy object getting placed in the center. A gramophone creaks to life with pagan drums, and the singsongs of men chanting strange languages. The barker from outside closes the doorway in with rope and jumps up to the stage. Ladies… And… Gentlemen! Ladies… And… Gentlemen! All the way from Peru, deepest, darkest Peru, I have a wonder of wonders to show to you today! Part man, part tree, and all monster! A Christian Missionary deep in the jungles of Peru discovered a native tribe worshipping this idol like a god. Recovered from the tribe, the whispering of this dangerous, devil drove the Missionary mad on the voyage back to civilization and science. They say his whispers can steal your very soul!

The curtain pulls back. The idol holds still, posing like an Egyptian Mummy. His hair is wrapped with twigs and branches. His skin is jagged as strips of bark. His naked torso disappears into the stump of a tree. He looks like something painted in a children’s book. He has an Indian face. He has a stern expression, closed mouth and eyes.

The barker gestures with a cane at the wooden idol. Behold the sleeping face of horror! Whosoever hears his rasping whisper will lose his mind.

“Hey!” One of the kids in the audience raises his hands.

Whomsoever he touches becomes infected with the darkness. His skin turns a deep greenish-brown. His tongue turns black.

“Hey, fellow!”

What is it kid?

“He’s fake! Look at him.”

The kids boo and hiss.

The idol, like a cigar-store Indian, did not move a muscle in his defense. The kids threw bits of popcorn at the still idol. Hold it, now! Hold it, now! Just… You there, lady! What do you think? Think he’s real? Want to inspect him?

I shake my head.

Come on, lady, for the kids!

“I want to inspect him! Why can’t I inspect him? ‘Cause he’s fake, that’s why!”

For the kids, lady…

“I’ll inspect him,” I say. “I’m an expert at plants and trees.”

I walk up to the stage. I investigate his skin up close. Bark is glued in sheets to a man painted with dark brown greasepaint. The idol opens his eyes. He winks at me.

“Oh, my… He’s real! I think I hear him whispering something…”

Get out of there lady! He’ll drive you mad!

“I think I am feeling a little… Odd.”

I place the Chrysanthemum behind the wooden idol’s ear. I recognize him, now – the escape artist – an old man with skin wrinkled like tree bark. He is gaunt enough to be a tree, with thick, ropy palms like five-fingered monkey wrenches.

“You’re lying, lady! He’s fake! He’s fake as Santa Claus!”

The barker tries to calm the kids. He tries to calm them down. I turn back to the escape artist.

“He’s real.” I lean in close. I smell the real him, underneath his costume. His real smell. It’s a sweet rot, like diabetes.

“I’m mad! I’ve gone mad!”

I press my lips into his with my eyes wide open. His eyes open in surprise. They are dark brown, and warm like summer water. He has crow’s feet like a grandfather. He reeks of brillo and greasepaint and his own smell underneath.

The children scream.

His hands wrap around my shoulders. His legs crackle free. He hefts me up, over a shoulder. I laugh. I wave at the children, as I’m carried away. Off-stage, he puts me down behind the tent.

Thanks.

“Are you really from Peru?”

He chuckles. He shakes his head.

“Where are you from?”

Los Angeles.

“What’s it like in Los Angeles?”

Oh… Like here, just… bigger. More people. Everywhere is the same, really.

“I don’t believe that.”

The old magician smiles. He pulls out a handkerchief and wipes off the places on my skin where his greasepaint has smeared into mine.

I pull away. “Don’t.”

I take the handkerchief from him. I use it, myself. He watches me using it. He says nothing.

“What?”

You know what? Keep it. I think you’re just beautiful, kid. You going home, tonight?

“I guess…”

Well, don’t stay too long. Good having a pretty face around.

He walks back into the tent where he performed.

I buy a candy apple. I ride the ferris wheel. I let a boy throw a baseball at milk jugs to try to win me a prize; he fails but I bend over to kiss his cheek anyway. I leave a small smear of brown greasepaint behind. He takes me to the freak show tents. We see a man with claws for hands, and a woman with a beard. We see a lizard man, and dancing midgets. The boy is too shy to hold my hand. He is so young. He slips away to buy us sodas, but I leave him in the dark, alone. He is just a boy, and I’ tired. I was ready to go home and sleep and face the disapproving morning after, where my mother would move gracelessly through the kitchen, collecting dust with the hem of her house dress and abandoning cups of tea all over the house because she won’t talk about what happened.

I climbed back into the truck and tried to get some sleep while the carnival played on, late into the night. In the morning, they’d have it all packed up, and move down the line.

And I’ll go home when the carnival makes their way back to my town.

5

     I shouldn’t tell anyone this secret, because it doesn’t change anything.

I remember exactly what happened when the truck took me away. The escape artist was in the truck. He held out his hand. He said that he knew my mother way back, and he had seen me back when they were still together, but I was so young that I had forgotten. He hadn’t forgotten me. I didn’t remember him at all, but he said that I was real young when my mother was done with him. He said that he came to this town all the time because he wanted to see my mom and me.

“Why?”

Thing is, I’ve been trying to… Jesus, this ain’t easy.

“What?”

Get in, kid.

“No.”

Just get in the fucking truck, okay?

The door opened. He reached out a hand to mine. He pulled me into the truck. There were two men in the truck with him. They held me down. They drove me away to the orchard.

I dropped the pizza. I remember that I dropped the pizza. I remember thinking how I had just ruined dinner because I dropped the pizza. “Where are you taking me?”

Would you be quiet, kid? Would you just be quiet?

Boys I knew my whole life found me in a pomegranate orchard, like that. My mother came for me. She leaned over me. She was crying so loud that birds flew away. Jesus fucking Christ, what’s the point of all that shouting? When it was happening it hurt for a while – it really hurt there for a while – but then it passed and I was alone below the pomegranate trees. The escape artist was there, with me. I was hungry. He held two halves of a pomegranate, torn open in his strong hands from cracking it on the tree. He held them up with juice all over his hands. The juice ran through his fingers like purple blood.

Then, I got in the new truck with him, and we drove away together. Instead of college, I spent my long autumn and winters at the carnival until the summer.

I like it here, I think. I’m meeting new people. I’m seeing new places. We’ll turn our way home, soon enough.

When we do, I’ll walk back through the fields to my home in the dark. I’ll climb the fence, and my mother’ll be asleep in her chair. I’ll put a blanket over her. I’ll take her tea cup from the piano to the kitchen sink, and I’ll wash any dishes I find there.

I’ll go upstairs. I’ll look out the window at the town and nothing will have changed while I was gone. Then, I’ll close the blinds, and go back downstairs. I’ll peel the dress off my back in the dark. I’ll put on my night gown and crawl into the piano, like a coffin. I’ll sleep poised upon the strings. This will mute the piano.

In the morning, we’ll have bacon and toast and probably a grapefruit half – one half for each of us – and it’ll be just like it was, like it always will be.

Nothing changes here.

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