Posted on January 16, 2014 by Patricia Ann McNair1.16.2014 Journal Prompt Photo by Jack Corn (National Archives) January 16, 2014: Who she used to be. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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She was different once and words tripped and tumbled from Lexi’s mouth and she was breathless with all she had to say and her mom and dad were dizzy with listening. And her teachers at school put their straight fingers across their lips and they hissed her to a difficult quiet; but as soon as they dropped their fingers, Lexi was talking again.
Then one day, and maybe she was seven, and her dad said he’d give her a silver penny, holding it up to wonder at, and he said all she had to do was be quiet for a day. He laughed when he said it, and he thought she never could. And Lexi’s mam laughed, too, and shook her head and turned the radio off to better hear the quiet.
And they pretended to heave a sigh of relief when Lexi still hadn’t uttered a word and it was lunchtime. And Dad raised his eyebrows and flipped the silver penny in the air; and mam served up yellow cheese and bread and glasses of milk still warm from the cow. And Lexi sat in thoughtful silence, and maybe she was thinking on what a silver penny would buy.
Then the day pulled its breeches up and stepped into the dark, and mam announced that the day was done and she said Lexi could talk now; and dad put the penny in Lexi’s hand, pressed it into her plam and folded her fingers over it, and he kissed her head and ruffled her hair. But still she was quiet, as though a day was long enough to forget how words are given shape in the mouth.
Three days she was silent, and they began to worry, and the doctor was called, for which he had to be paid, and he examined Lexi’s throat and her mouth, and he scratched his head and he said it was a puzzle; and that cost Lexi’s mam a pound of best butter and three quarts of milk and a hessian bag of vegetables from mam’s garden.
When Lexi’s voice came back, and almost a week had been quiet, it was as though it was an answer to her mom and dad’s prayers and they gave whispered thanks to god and they put all their pocket change into the church collection plate on Sunday. And mam turned the radio off to better hear the sound of her daughter talking.
Now Lexi is grown, and there’s a woman’s shape to her. Lexi, and she’s the prettiest girl for miles, and her eyes as blue as the sky and her hair yellow like the sun. And the man at the diner calls her Marilyn and he says she can have an extra piece of pie if she’d only give him a kiss. And any other girl would have a sassy answer for him and for every leering boy; but Lexi’s quiet again – quiet as stones are or dead birds or sleeping mice; and not three days or four, but years it is and not a single sound.
Lexi’s mom and dad silent too, killed in a collision with a truck when she was twelve, and no words could express her grief then and no words now. Six years of silence and the man at the diner says Lexi can have a whole pie if she’ll just tell him she loves him, and she laughs and tosses her head; and the boys huddled over their bottles of coke bite their straws and watch her as she moves away, watching the way her body moves under her dress.