Page 14

“Of Earth and Wood” by Adrienne Anifant

T

he backs of my thighs stuck to the leather seats as we drove home from the Batman movie at the old Roosevelt drive-in, the thick balmy air of a July night pressing down upon me. For some reprieve, I leaned my head out the window to feel the wind. The wide country sky was full of stars. My imagination was suffused with images and legends of bat-people--evanescent souls of the dead unable to find peace or the rebellious daughters of Minyas turned into bats as punishment. “I don’t think Mary is here,” my mother said, suppressing a rising panic. We drove up our driveway through the long corridor of trees. My father ignored her as he tried to aim the car into the garage, going forward two feet then backing up four. It sometimes took ten minutes. “I’m getting out,” my mother said. Before he finished his maneuverings, my mother rushed to the front door, opened it, let it swing widely, ricocheting off the wall. “Mary, are you here?” My parakeet regarded us with grave, black eyes through the bars of his cage. It was odd that my mother was anxious: Mary was rarely home this early. The smells of Patchouli and Mary’s body still lingered in her room. Clothes that were usually on the floor, quilted into a second carpet, were gone. There were no longer the familiar edges of things in her room: the stereo, stacks of books, the porcelain doll who stood like a sentient corpse. The bare corners of her desk and bureau jutted nakedly out of the dark. Her bed was stripped except for a heavy bedspread my grandmother had crocheted. My mother turned on the light. A tight band of pressure squeezed my head and heart. Mary was gone. My sister had left me. My mother made a high-pitched trill, her eyes squeezed shut, her fists curled in distress. She held her arms out—for me? I didn’t think so, but I went to her anyway. She grabbed me in a hard hug, heaving harsh and deep. My parents launched into their usual screaming, imbued with blame and insults: their only means to comfort one another. I snuck into my room, checked Mary’s stash of hidden supplies. All the toilet paper, Q-tips, Tylenol, canned soup and granola bars were gone. She was planning her escape for months, but it never seemed real. But, now it had happened. I saw the note written on an index card left on my pillow. Mary’s script, waves of rolling letters all slanting dramatically to the left. “Dear E., I’m so sorry. But you know I had to go. I’ll write to you very soon. Love always, Mary.” “I stared at the card in my hand. Her words entered me, hurt me.” I was careful not to let my tears smudge the ink. It was all I had, so I hid it from them. That night my mother and I slept side by side in my bed. She woke up every few hours keening like women at ancient Irish wakes and funerals. My father sat all night in the den with

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South Jersey Underground #15  

South Jersey Underground

South Jersey Underground #15  

South Jersey Underground

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