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Hope Arched Her Back By Kathie Giorgio

Not knowing just what a Father was didn’t stop Anna from wanting one. She had a mother though and her mother had a Father once and she told Anna that it was a really good thing and so she wanted Anna to have one too. Anna really appreciated her efforts. Every Friday and Saturday night, and sometimes on Sunday afternoons or weeknights, Anna sat on her mother’s bed, watching her mother pretty herself up for the Latest Date. There was always a Latest Date. Anna’s mother collected them everywhere, in the library, at work, in the line at the grocery store. Anna attracted some of the Latest Dates herself and that made her feel proud. A man would place his big warm hand on her hair and say to her mother, “What a pretty little girl!” followed by the sly question, “Does she look like her Father?” And then

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Anna’s mother’s response: “Oh, no, there is no Father.” They always asked her mother out then, to a movie or dinner or sometimes both. And sometimes men just looked right over Anna and went straight to her mother with a “Hey, babe, what’re you doing tonight?” Anna thought that the dates precipitated by her own young prettiness would produce the best Fathers. Yet so far, no Latest Date brought in by Anna or her mother ever made it through until the morning. Anna smoothed out the bedspread, swirling its white chenille around her in soft cloudy waves. She pretended it was the sea and she was drowning and her Father was on the way. “This is Date Number Three-InA-Row tonight, right?” she asked. “Yes, and oh, Anna, Date Three is so important! It’s a Deal-Maker-or-Breaker.” Her mother pursed her lips at the mirror, coloring them bright red, and her speech was slushy from the effort. “And the fact that he’s made them in a row, Thursday, Friday, and now Saturday, is a really good sign. We should know tonight if he’s going to be around for a while or if I have to start looking again.” Anna’s mother sprayed perfume on her neck, her chest, inside her elbows and on her wrists, and 2


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then she stood up and sprayed behind her knees. Smiling at Anna, she lifted her skirt and sprayed up toward her underwear. Anna laughed. Rising to her knees, Anna looked at the allimportant Left Side of the Bed. Its pillow was higher than the right, more fluffed, firmer. Strong. “And we’ll know if he’s The One –“ she slowly recited. “When he’s still here the next morning,” her mother finished their mantra and Anna smiled. It was like the endings in her favorite fairy tale book. They all lived happily ever after when the Prince was still in the bed the next morning. And Anna would be the one he kissed awake. But the Latest Dates always left before dawn. Oh, they lay with her mother during the night, made all their gruff troll noises, and Anna watched them through the barely opened door and wondered if this moan meant he would stay or if her mother pressing her lips there would mark him as her Father. When it grew quiet, when there was only the murmur of soft voices, Anna ran to her bedroom and waited breathless for the morning. But the morning always found her mother sitting on the right side of the bed, all alone.


Kathie Giorgio

Anna walked on her knees to the left pillow, carefully pulled back the spread, and dove nose-first into the pillowcase. His smell was there, this Latest Date. The scent was full and rich, so different from when she hugged her mother and buried her nose in her neck. Less flowery. More like the smell of the burgers her mother fried on the stove. Anna’s burger was always done first because she liked it juicing red. Her mother preferred hers black, with no juice at all. Anna always cleaned her plate with her tongue. “Yes, he was here last night,” she heard her mother say. “I didn’t change the sheets so that maybe his own smell would, I don’t know, ground him or something. You know how dogs always turn around three times before they lay down in their beds? They’re planting their scent and finding it again. He’ll stay, maybe, tonight.” Anna carefully balanced the pillow on her lap. She stroked it and when she smelled her fingers, she smelled Him. She pictured her Father turning around three times before settling into the bed. “Anna, put that back now. Make it neat. He’ll be here in a minute and I have to leave. Now, your TV 4


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dinner is in the usual place, okay? I refilled the freezer this morning.” Anna nodded. She knew just which one she would pick. Her favorite was macaroni and cheese with little hot dogs already cut up and mixed in. And salty buttery corn. And a brownie. She always ate that first because it tasted so good while it was hot. If it got cold, the chocolate somehow turned to dark brown spongy cardboard. When the Latest Date came to pick up her mother, Anna noticed that the hello kiss lasted a long time. Her mother’s cheeks rippled as the man’s tongue moved slowly around in her mouth and her mother uttered a little sigh. For a moment, Anna wondered if there might not be a date at all, if they would just go to the bedroom, but then the Latest Date opened his eyes and looked right at Anna and he stepped away. As they walked out the door, Anna heard him ask, “No babysitter again?” Anna didn’t hear what her mother answered, but she heard the slide of the key in the lock and she watched as the deadbolt twisted to the right. It was a solid sound and looking at the deadbolt made her feel


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better as the night passed away. It made her feel safe. Staying home alone was the hardest thing, but her mother said it would be worth it when she caught Anna a Father. Anna used a chair to climb to the freezer and select her dinner. After she slid it into the microwave and punched the right buttons, she watched the black plastic sectioned plate spin around and around. Her brownie puffed up, like the left pillow on her mother’s bed. It smelled good too. Anna asked her mother once about her Real Father. But her mother just shook her head. Anna knew she had to have a Father at one time and she thought about maybe running into him someday. She pictured him saying, “Anna! Where has your mother been hiding you? I’ve missed you so much, little peanut.” But she knew from her mother’s headshake that he would probably really say, “Anna, what are you doing here? I don’t want you. Go away.” She didn’t want to hear that and so she supposed she would never run into him. She wondered if this Latest Date would call her little peanut. **** 6


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When it was her bedtime, Anna turned off the television and all of the lights in the apartment, except for the one above the sink in the kitchen. Then she turned down her bed and set her stuffed giraffe on her pillow and her opened fairy tale book on its face on her bedside table. This was how her room looked on nights that Anna’s mother stayed home and so her mother would assume that Anna went to bed right on time. Instead, she slid herself between the curtains and the living room window and looked three stories down to the street. There were spaces all over at this time of night and Anna knew that the Latest Date would park in one of them and she would have time to dive into her bed before her mother made it up the elevator. She would also know before the deadlock opened if her mother was alone. Anna stared at the empty street and thought how different it was at night. As the time grew later, the traffic disappeared and the lights in the apartment house across the street went out. Anna soon felt like she was the only person in the world. She felt like that a lot, even when her mother was home. Sometimes, when her mother was in the bedroom with the Latest Date, Anna


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felt less lonely and more like she was supposed to feel. Like the kids at school. Even the ones who had divorced parents still had mothers and Fathers. Sometimes they had two or three sets of parents, which seemed unfair to Anna who didn’t even have one. During the daytime, the street was busy, filled with cars and buses and people walking along the sidewalks and kids riding bikes. Sometimes when she was home after school, Anna opened the living room window and knelt there with her elbows on the sill and just soaked in all the noise. It felt full out there and that’s what Anna wanted her days and nights to be like. Full. Now Anna heard the sound of a car and she stepped back from the window just a bit. A gray car slid into a spot across the street. It was the same car Anna saw her mother and the Latest Date step out of the night before. Anna recognized the green rubber cactus plant topped with a cowboy hat speared on the antenna. She braced, ready to run, but for a while, no one got out. She began to worry. Sometimes this meant her mother came out of the car by herself, slammed the door, and

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crossed the street while the car drove away and disappeared. But then they got out and Anna relaxed. Anna’s mother crossed over to the Latest Date and he kissed her, pressing her against the car. Anna saw his hands rove over her mother’s chest and slide down around her waist and then to her bottom. Anna mimicked his moves on herself. When they turned to come into the apartment, Anna bolted for her bedroom. By the time the deadlock turned, she was in bed, hugging her giraffe, the sheet and blanket pulled up to her chin. Anna heard sloppy kissing sounds and the low voice of the Latest Date. “Just a minute,” her mother said. “Let me look in on Anna.” There was a silence and then Anna heard her door squeak as her mother pulled it closer to shut. Not all the way shut though because she knew that closed doors made Anna scared. That’s why her mother never shut her own bedroom door all the way. Closed doors didn’t really make Anna scared, but that’s what she said so that she could slip out of her room and look inside her mother’s. She knew if she couldn’t see, if she couldn’t know what was going on inside, she’d really feel scared then. She needed to know


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how close she was to getting a Father. She needed to know her mother was really trying. Because sometimes, it didn’t seem that way. Sometimes the Latest Date did something and her mother’s voice rose and his too and then he left, barely giving Anna time to scramble back to her bedroom. When the front door slammed, Anna crept back down the hall. Her mother lay on her stomach during those times and sometimes she was half-dressed or all the way undressed and sometimes there would be red marks on her body and sometimes she cried. Anna wanted to tell her then to stop crying, to bring him back, to see if he was really her Father, because how could he stay until the morning if she made him leave so fast? But Anna never said anything because then her mother would know she was watching. The doors just couldn’t be closed. Anna waited a few minutes, then carefully slid from her bed. She heard them before she even made it down the hall. Those slurpy smacking sounds. The noise her mother made that sounded like she was in pain, but she didn’t cry or yell Ouch! the way Anna did when she got hurt. The door was almost all the way 10


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closed and Anna got down on her belly before she pushed it open further. If the door creaked and her mother looked over, she would never see Anna flat on the floor. But her mother didn’t look over and so Anna pushed herself onto her hands and knees. Her mother was on her hands and knees too, on the bed, and the Latest Date was standing behind her. His hips were moving hard, almost like he was jumping up and down, but he moved forward and back instead. Every time he moved, he grunted. Anna couldn’t see her mother’s face, it was toward the pillows, but her neck was arched and she seemed to be staring at the ceiling. The man kept saying, “Give it to me, baby,” and her mother answered, “Take it, take it,” and then the man said, “All the way,” and her mother echoed, “All the way.” Her mother’s breasts swung and jiggled and from time to time, the Latest Date grabbed them and squeezed, the way Anna squeezed her playdough, bits of her mother’s skin erupting between his fingers. And sometimes he bent low over her and his hands crept between her mother’s legs and his thrusts grew shorter and when he did this, her mother’s head dropped and sagged between


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her shoulder blades and Anna heard her whine, “Please, please.” Carefully, quietly, Anna sat back on her calves and opened her legs and ran her own hands up her thighs and between. She felt a jolt. Then her mother cried out something Anna didn’t understand and the Latest Date moved faster and he cried out too, and then they both fell on the bed. Anna stopped her touching and listened to their heavy breathing. The Latest Date said, “Fuck, that was good!” and Anna’s mother said, “Oh, there’s more, there’s more, if you want more.” When her mother sat up and began to move down the man’s body, kissing him all the way, Anna crawled carefully backwards and then hurried to her room. Her mother was trying hard, it was clear. Maybe this was The One. Maybe he would say, “Fuck, that was good, little peanut,” the next morning when Anna did something nice for him. When she got into bed, she touched herself again and felt that jolt. “Please, please,” she whispered to her giraffe. **** When Anna woke up, it was quiet. She sniffed, but didn’t smell her mother’s coffee. She wondered if the Latest Date didn’t like coffee or if her mother was 12


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sitting alone on the right side of her bed. As Anna walked down the hallway, she studied her mother’s door. It seemed to be opened just the way it was last night. Not closed further. Not opened further. Just the same. Getting down on her hands and knees, she looked in. Her mother was asleep on her side, facing the doorway, and she was still naked. Behind her, Anna could see the shoulder of the Latest Date, and his arm flowed over her mother’s waist and his hand rested on her crotch. Quickly, Anna glanced toward the window, confirming that sunlight was indeed slipping between the slats of the silver blinds. It was morning and he was still here. She had her Father. Anna stood up and eased the door closed. She didn’t want them to wake up, she wanted them to stay together. She vowed to remain quiet for as long as it took. She wished she knew how to make coffee, but she only knew how to make TV dinners. She wondered if her Father would like macaroni and cheese and cut-up hot dogs for breakfast. Going back to her room, Anna lay on her back and thought of the night before, of her Father’s hands, of his


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hand now in her mother’s crotch. She thought of the jolt. She had a Father. She had a Father who could say, “Hi, little peanut!” and “I love you, little peanut!” and “Fuck, that was good, little peanut!” She touched her thighs, ran her hands up, then fingered her crotch. And some more. Hope arched her back as she closed her eyes and touched and touched and thought of ways to keep her Father happy. She would make him happy. He would kiss her awake every morning. Her nights would be full.

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Kathie Giorgio’s novel, The Home for Wayward Clocks, and her short story collection, Enlarged Hearts, were both published by the Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Her stories and poems have appeared in many national and international literary magazines, and in anthologies by Papier Mache Press, the Main Street Rag Publishing Company, EBibliotekos, Fearless Poetry and Susurrus Press. She is the director of AllWriters' Workplace & Workshop, an international creative writing studio.

Hope Arched Her Back, by Kathie Giorgio  

There was always a Latest Date. Anna’s mother collected them everywhere, in the library, at work, in the line at the grocery store.

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