Compass Sofia B
A girl not more than 8 peers out her front window at a box that has been left on the front porch. The box was not there yesterday before she went to bed. “So how did it get there?” She thinks. She skips to the front door and puts her hand on the latch holding it closed. On the latch there is a clock inscribed in the brass. Around the rim of the clock is a serpent eating its own tail. What is in the box? She wonders. She stands there and does not open the door. Deep cracks run along the bottom of the faded red door. The peeling paint accents the spirals in the wood. What am I waiting for? If I open this door will a man jump out? Will a bomb go off? Will someone die? Will I? “No,” She says out load to no one, “Probably nothing will happen.” She’s oddly disappointed at the truth of her statement. She slowly undoes the latch and then she very lightly pulls on the door. The cracked wood scrapes across the muddy stone floor. She looks out and cautiously puts one bare foot out into the frozen windy world. She cringes as her foot touches the icy cold wood of her porch. She shifts her weight and stops; the box is from her father. She slams the door and runs into her room, and snatches a pair of scissors off a table in the far corner. Then, in an instant, she’s back out the door. She plunges her scissors into the soft cardboard of the box. A small hole has been ripped open and she shoves her fingers in. Furiously she tears at the box. She has a small hope that, if she opens this box, it will save her. This box might scoop her up and pull her from this house and this life and save her. An animal in her comes out as she shovels the peanuts out and doesn’t even notice that they are flying in every direction. Her nails hit something. She slows her digging. She pulls out a small metal compass on a string. It’s old and scratched and there is dirt in every small crevice. She hadn’t seen her dad in years but she remembers that they would go on adventures in the backyard of their old house. They would run all through the flowers and lush green grass. They would climb trees and hunt for animal prints. They would use the compass to find their way home. But why would he give her the compass? Their old house had been demolished a long time ago.
It was an early morning one day after she had received the compass. She heard a rap on her bedroom door. It was raining out, but only softly. She noticed clouds rolling through the crowded houses. “Cornelia, wake up!” Lucinda, Cornelia’s mother, says through the door. Cornelia could hear her mother’s foot tapping rapidly.
“I’m going out and I need to know that someone will be watching Scritch.” She walks loudly away from the door grumbling, “What am I going to do with that child?” Scritch is Lucinda’s dog. “Why do I have to watch Lucinda’s stupid, old, disgusting poodle anyway?” Cornelia thought. She thought her words so harshly they almost came out of her mouth. She drops her head back down into her pillow. She sighs. The door slams and her mother is gone. Cornelia gets out of bed and walks over to her dresser. Her dresser is actually her mom’s dresser. Her mother had given it to her after she had an “accident” and smashed the mirror; but Cornelia knew that “accident” wasn’t an accident at all. Her mother was drunk and angry. She remembers that day. Her mom came home after she had been gone for three days. She stormed into the house with a gold plastic trophy in one hand and her cell phone in the other. She was wearing the same pink sequin dress she had been wearing when she left and it looked tattered. Half of her press-on nails were either chipped or missing. Her hair was a mess of bobby pins and stale hair spray, all attempting to hold together the ruins of a hair style. Three of her weaves hung limply from her mess of hair. When the phone rang she whipped it at the mirror in her bedroom, shattering it. She drunkenly stumbled into the bed room each step heavier then it had to be. It seemed like she was trying to smash her anger into the floor to make it hurt the way she did. Then when the phone rang again she shouted, “Stop calling me you son of a-“she smashed her phone with the trophy this time, making sure it would never ring again. Then she started to sob, and after that, she fell asleep. Cornelia was almost crying at the thought of that day.
Now fully dressed, she goes to feed and walk the horrible Scritch. Scritch hates her and is at least seventeen years old. When she approaches, he growls and starts to make his hissy-whiney sound that according to Lucinda is a bark.
The dog is perched on the window sill whining at Lucinda’s departure. He does this every time she leaves. His whimpers start out high and shrill and loud. Then they simmer and cool to a low scratching sound from the back of his throat. It sounds like wind blowing through an empty desert. Cornelia doesn’t understand how anything or anyone could love her mother that much. She isn’t sure if she loves her mother that much. She hates thinking this because she knows people will judge her, she will judge her. They would probably say, “Don’t think that! Of course you love her, she’s your mother; you sort of, have to.”
But it’s in her own head so nobody can hear it but her. Maybe that’s the worst part. She doesn’t want to judge herself, but when people say something for a long time, over and over, you kind of, “have to” believe it. Even if you don’t want to, you question
yourself. Her stomach grumbles at her. She walks through the hall to the kitchen. The hallway looks so empty. It’s just white, with a pale oak floor, and that is all. She feels like a blind man, it’s so blank. Not blind by force, blind by choice, she is just choosing to have that feeling about the hall. She could use her eyes and noticed more. Every crumb, every crack, every smudge. It just doesn’t matter. The only objective in her mind is the kitchen.
She opens the fridge. There is a rotten tomato, an empty jam jar, old salad dressing, and four empty liquor bottles. She figures it would be safer if she eats something from a can; hunting through the pantry for a soup can is a morning routine. She knows there will never be anything good in the fridge but she checks anyway, every day. She always hopes that she will find something there, as proof that her mom does care about her, even just a stick of butter’s worth.
Published on Jan 25, 2013