Send Her Away
You can call me whatever you like. My mother calls me Angela. Something like angels Grandma says when I sit next to her bed at Lazy Acre Home breaking graham crackers at their perforated lines. I don’t know of any Grandpa but Mother had to come from somewhere. Nurse Stell brings in metal trays covered in crackers from the cafeteria – trays like the ones she brings Grandma’s mints in on. You’ll understand one day darlin’, Nurse Stell said as she set the tray down. Something like angels Grandma says each time Nurse Stell came in, when she left, when I went to use the bathroom, when I came back.
I liked Grandma’s toilet with its railed sides. I’d take off my pants and underwear and set them on her shower seat – I could balance over her toilet and pee – just like that. Like Andy did from the top of the slide, but never did again because his Dad hit him, right there. That’s what Dads do my mother said as she pressed me into her hip. She smelled like spices from work.
Mother had a thing for alcohol. She liked the stale taste of it on men’s mouths – I overheard Jenny’s Mom say at a parent teacher meeting once. I never asked about my father but my teachers did: What does your Father do, Angela? I don’t know. Where will you go for Take Your Daughter to Work Day? … What will you write your paper on?
He’s a drinker is all my mother ever said about my father. Am I a drinker? Of course you aren’t – you won’t be like him. You’ll be like me, Mother’s little girl. Andy’s Dad dropped him at the front of the school while my mother walked me to the classroom. I’ll just take her to work – it’ll have to do. It just will won’t it…Angela can learn about bottling spices… We can’t expect her to learn an appropriate vocation in her situation. When Mother left I could follow her smell with my eyes closed. I am definitely going to be a secret spy not a spice lady.
Andy can you show me how to tinkle on the slide? Boys pee different. But you should see me pee at Grandma’s.
Linda sits behind me in Mrs. Stomps class. Linda talks funny and most times she spits when she says her name and when she says the Le part of mine. But Linda’s nice and lets me ride her bike sometimes. Mostly on Tuesday when Mother can’t get me from class, and Mrs. Paula’s bus takes me to the corner of our street. Angela, this is you, Raven Street. Come on now.
Mother isn’t happy on Tuesdays since she has to stay later to sort spices for little to nothing. The days near my birthday were hot, and Mother didn’t turn the fans on after the clock-face looked like an upside down ‘L’. Linda’s bike was too big because my feet didn’t stretch to the pedals and I had to get off a bunch and run-jump to turn them.
I was sticky under my shirt and the living room was full of sunlight after school. I pulled my sneakers off, left my socks on to skate across the carpet getting my hair to porcupine. My left knee was still scabbed from the last time I did it when I was home alone. Mother called the mark carpet burn. It never bled like my other cuts it only turned light pink like the kitten’s nose next door. I stuck my hands under the kitchen faucet, with water down my neck and chest ready to play secret spy behind the bushes until Mother’s car pulls up.
I’m secret spy Alan. I can find your lost toy or pet hamster. And I can dig up worms and put them in your little sister’s teacup. Secret spy Alan saves kittens from anthills. The spiky bushes scratched my back as I hid between them and the fence looking for clues the kitten had been around today. My socks heavy with the water the grass has even on sunny days. Mother would have to bleach them again but she said adventure is good for a little girl. No kitten mines behind the bushes, or near the tree’s toes. The red birds haven’t gone to the nest and I can’t hear babies crying from the branches anymore. Mother says the boy birds are the red ones and the girl birds are brown. She said the bright red attracts the girls to the boys so they can have baby birds. But the girls I know are pretty and bright so maybe the birds got it backwards.
No birds, no kittens – I’ll hunt worms for Andy’s sister’s Barbie Jeep. Mother bought it for me but Andy’s sister wanted it more. I swapped it for a pair of skates. The worms slip into the dirt by the wobbly fence post. One – two – three – four – five! I sludgy sock run-jump across the yard to the bench that leaves white pieces on my pants. The worms wiggle in my hands as I hold them overhead to the clouds. I am secret spy Alan wormy expert. Angela what are you doing? Don’t stand on that bench – put the worms down, now! I’m secret spy Alan. Your name isn’t Alan, and put your shirt on. Girls don’t run around without shirts on. Andy does. He’s a boy and you’re a girl. I want to be secret spy Alan. You’re Angela, do you understand? I’ll get the mirror again.
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