11.5.2013 Journal Prompt

Three Girls in Kitchen, 1964 William Gedney Photographs and Writings Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/
Three Girls in Kitchen, 1964
William Gedney Photographs and Writings
Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

November 5, 2013: It was a sunny day.

6 Replies to “11.5.2013 Journal Prompt”

  1. I remember that day. The one from the picture and the three of us in the same room and sunlight breaking through the window and dust like flecked gold in that light and the air as still as a held breath and Julia, balanced on one leg, was singing. She was always singing then and still is when I remember her.

    It was an easy day and a slow day, by which I mean school was out and it was summer. Ma was at work and Pa was no place. It was just us in the house and the cat sleeping somewhere and bees caught behind the glass and looking for a way out.

    Maria, she’s the oldest, and she said straight out that she was gonna let Kenny Tucker put his hand underneath her dress. And Julia stopped her singing then and she put her two feet to the floor. I pretended to be shocked at what Maria had said, though I’d already let Stevie Martinez do just that with me. He’d promised not to tell no one and he swore on his baby sister’s life and she only had one arm so I believed him, just as long as he warmed his hands first.

    Stevie Martinez was in a breathless hurry and was a little clumsy in his haste and he tore a button on my yellow dress, which bothered me more than Stevie squeezing my diddies like he was looking for ripe fruit.

    Maria began describing Kenny Tucker’s kisses and his tongue in her mouth all soft and wet and searching. And Julia said that was just disgusting and she made noises in the back of her throat like she was being sick or like she was the cat trying to bring up a hairball.

    I remember that day and the things that we said and Julia still so young. Maybe that’s why she took herself off. Maybe. That, or the disgust at Kenny’s tongue and his spit in Maria’s mouth.

    It’s all so long ago now. More than twenty years. Funny thing is, if I close my eyes I can still hear the porch screen-door falling shut and the small and smaller sound of Julia singing once again and taking her song away with her.

    I told Maria then about Stevie and his fingers sticky with the juice of pears he’d filched from Greenacre farm, and his kisses sticky, too, and sugar-sweet. And Stevie swearing on his sister’s life and snorting like a bull and blowing warm breaths into the closed cup of his hands before touching me.

    Maria wanted to know what it was like. I shrugged and said it was ok. And she asked me if I loved Stevie – which I laughed and said was stupid. And she said maybe it was different when a boy you loved was touching under your clothes. She so wanted it to be special that I said maybe she was right and I said how it was better when Sissy’s hands were doing what Stevie’s hands did. And I loved Sissy, so maybe Maria was right.

    I pushed up the sash window to set free the bee that was lost and fizzing like a lit firework against the glass. And I remember thinking, when the bee was gone, how quiet the world could be and I remember thinking it was strange – like something was missing that should have been there. I know now that it was Julia singing that was not where it should be.

    Later in the day, that easy and slow summer day, and Maria was sleeping on a blanket thrown flat on the grass out back and she was face down with the back of her bra unfastened, and I was eating honey from a jar with my fingers, and suddenly the police recruit was in the house and calling. In his arms he carried Julia, like a pale limp wet fish he’d pulled from the river, and river water dripping from her hair and her dress and pooling on the floor. The whole world dripping after that.

    Ma was brought from her work and she cried every day from that day. And Pa shook his head and he stroked Ma’s hair like she was a cat or a horse, and he did not have any words and he never did again.

    And Maria did not let Kenny Tucker touch her under her dress after all, not that summer or any other, not with her sister in the ground and a hole in all the summers that came after, a hole that was the absence of Julia singing.

    And I have the last picture of us, of me and Julia and Maria, and we are in the house in summer and Julia is balancing on one leg and Maria is saying about kissing with tongues; and even though I am looking straight at the camera, I don’t recall who it was who took that picture, and after twenty years it is that small detail that bothers me, like a button torn from my dress when Stevie Martinez was pressing his pear-sticky fingers into my flesh.

      1. I don’t often look at the photos that closely… I just get a feel from them and maybe it’s what you said before, Patty, about how there’s so much more in the dark and the unhappy, more to say than in the happy and the light. I don’t know. Even in my lighter second shot at the photo it came out sorta sad… though Judith thought it delightful.

  2. (Judith – here’s another response but not so dark and nobody dies.)

    We was havin a meetin, sorta. Just me and Mindy and Christine. We was discussin things and not really sure if we should. We was talkin in whispers and code. It was summer and the air was breathless still and I warn’t wearin shoes, and Mindy was standin on one leg and not really gettin what we was talkin about.

    Mammy was out doin shoppin, see, like she done every Saturday in the mornin; and Daddy was next door again with Mary Anderson. Pretty as a painted doll and all fur and no knickers and hair coloured from a bottle and that was Mary Anderson. And we knowed what Daddy was about, even though he says he was helpin her with her wallpaperin. If it warn’t wallpaper, it was her carpets he was helpin with or a problem with her chimney or a sofa needin shiftin. But we knowed the truth, me and Christine.

    I seen ‘em once. I was climbin the old maple tree at the bottom of the garden, and Daddy was next door with Mary Anderson and he was fixin her back boiler. Only I saw he warn’t. I saw ‘em kissin and he had his hand between Mary’s legs and she with her eyes closed and a look on her face that was somethin like our Christine when she was suckin ice cold coke through a straw and suckin too fast and it was a look between pleasure and pain.

    Christine says Daddy shouldn’t be shaggin Mary Anderson. Christine says he should be shaggin our Mammy instead. I know what shaggin is, but Mindy don’t. I seen the old bull once up at Midler Vale Farm and it was climbin heavy on top of a still standin cow, and that was shaggin. I warn’t sure that I liked the idea of Daddy doin that to our Mammy, any more than I was happy he was doin it to Mary Anderson.

    Mindy lifted her arms in the air, like she might be a dancer. And she was hummin a tune she was learnin for school. But she was listenin, too. I says we had to keep it a secret and no good to come from us tellin Mammy.

    We’d heared them fightin once, Mammy and Daddy, behind the closed door of their bedroom. And Daddy was sayin he never kissed Mary Anderson when he did, and he says he don’t ever know how Mammy could think that he had. They throwed words back forth for hours, and those words was like fists throwed by a drunk on a Saturday night and throwed wild. And after that, the house was as quiet as an empty church and not even God was in the house, not for the next four days. And that was on account of Daddy kissin Mary Anderson. Shaggin was a lot worse than kissin, we knowed that, and so I says we was not to tell our Mammy.

    Christine agreed and we made Mindy swear on Tibby’s life. Tibby is our cat and he’d been shaggin next door’s Princess. But cats shaggin is different. With cats shaggin there’s a chance for kittens small as fluffy gloves and tongues all bubblegum pink and soft. Mindy says she don’t know what she’s swearin to. She asks us what shaggin is and she asks if it’s like dancin, and we can’t say.

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