Saturday, August 29, 2009


The moment the little sister says, “Know what? Mom broke a plate there this morning,” I realize that I have just embedded a ceramic wedge into my heel.

I cry out and hop on one foot, grabbing my ankle and plucking the chunk of dinner plate from my muscle. There is a wince of pain and then a flow of blood poxing up the floor.

The big sister, who was once so small I had to help her up onto the toilet, catches me as I fall against the medicine cabinet. I’ve taken care of these children for fourteen years, but she got big when I wasn’t looking.

“Careful there,” she says, balancing me in one arm while extracting a Band-Aid from the cabinet with the other. She is now ten inches taller than I am, so it is easier for her to reach.

She pulls my foot up onto the counter and smoothes the Band-Aid over my heel. Then she grabs at some paper towels and erases my signature from the floor.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What the Rat Said

Walking along the river, Rat saw Lion, king of the beasts, taking a swim.

“How shabby the king’s coat looks,” thought Rat.

He went along until he met Rabbit, to whom he related everything he’d seen, along with the appraisal that the king had let himself go because he was old and enfeebled and so weak that he surely wouldn’t be around much longer. Rabbit’s ears perked up when he heard this news. The next time Lion passed his burrow, instead of bowing his head, Rabbit stared, trying to ascertain how long the old king had to live.

Lion growled and bared his teeth, but Rabbit kept staring. Lion roared and stalked toward him, but Rabbit remembered that the king was old and weak and didn’t even nod. Finally, Lion leaned over Rabbit and gave him a clout on the head before tossing his mane and walking on.

When Rabbit regained his senses and licked his wounds, he thought he should let Rat know that the old king was hale and hearty as ever. So he went down to the river, found Rat, and boxed his ears.

Moral: Gossip hurts three people--the one who repeats it, the one who hears it, and the one it is about.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


It’s a normal human response, which is why you have people who see the Virgin Mary in their grilled cheese sandwich or portents in tea leaves or even just pictures in clouds. But she couldn’t turn it off.

As a little girl, she couldn’t read expressions on human faces, but she saw worlds inside every irregular surface: wood grain, the green vinyl covering the seats on the school bus, the dots on acoustic ceiling tile, tree branches, the shadows on her bedroom wall at night. She might see children playing ball, or birds chasing dogs, or snow-capped mountains, or desert islands where X-marked-the-spot to buried treasure, or genies in bottles, but often, she didn’t.

Often, especially when the lights were out or the girl was alone, she saw demons. Fang-toothed, horned monsters with hideous, child-eating grins leered down at her from wooden cabinets or up from the speckles in the sidewalk pavement. Often, she kept seeing them after she closed her eyes. Often, they seemed more real than the people she met.

As she grew older, she could control it a little better. Mostly, she didn’t see demons anymore. Mostly.