(Ray Bradbury had an idea for how to get your own education in writing. It’s the 1000-day MFA. I learned about this from Shaunta Grimes. Having launched into this project, the idea is to read a poem, an essay and a short story every night before bed for 1000 days. And during this same period, write a short story every week. This is my Friday story of the week.)
June sits there in the church hoping like hell nobody comes in. It’s the only place I could think of. She doesn’t know why she’s here. I don’t know what I’d tell anyone if they found her. She sniffs out a mirthless little chuckle. Feels so free and outlaw sitting here in this ratty flannel nightgown. It’s a free country. I’m not exposing myself or anything. Who cares. It is a truly blessed feeling being somewhere where nobody would think to look for you, and even if they did you could just get down on your knees and close your eyes into your praying hands and it would be Not Allowed to bother you.
I hear someone in the parish hall. June sinks deeper into me, hiding in plain sight behind her own face. She tries to drop to her knees and close her eyes but it’s pointless. I can’t think of where to go and even if I could June would just be a woman wandering around in her slippers in Cody. It would bring all those faces and questions and things June couldn’t answer and people I knew but didn’t want them to know me, and —
Just then her friend Clara enters through the far door, dressed in church robes with the Book of Common Prayer in her hand. Oh yeah, Lent. This is evensong and now shit! People will be coming in. Jim is probably sitting at the organ this very moment in the balcony. Aaaaand cue the organ. Jesus. Why is white church music so depressingly dead? Boring, tight-assed, square and wrong. Music on life support, its lungs pushed out and in by an anemic beat. Jesus — not the cuss word, but the actual guy — forgive us for this crappy music. I’m sure this is why you don’t visit us anymore.
Marc comes in from work, so he’s still in his police uniform. Who knew he was religious? Him and his brother, and then a few other people. Not that many though. I fall away from my eyes I fall asleep sitting up music happens, words happen none of it for anything. I would get up and leave but that would make her visible it would make her real and I don’t wanna be real anymore I fall further and further in falling in a free fall through the world with no bottom.
I get up and leave I have to catch up to her. It’s weird walking down the main street in our slippers. June knows people and I don’t show myself to them. I stay where they can’t find me. Sound is a thing, but not a very big thing. The outside buzzes like a fly. I don’t know what it’s saying and June doesn’t care either. I just wish it would shut up. I have it figured out perfect. Nobody can find me. It’s cold on my legs but the cold can’t find me either. Neener neener neener.
I go into the mercantile. There’s a lot of stuff that she don't know what any of it is. She picks something up. I put it down. I look at a personalized license plate for a bike. Sherry it says. June handles a cup with a moose on it, fingers a Yellowstone National Park keychain. We look at a box of bullets. They look at me funny. A guy says something to me and puts the bullets in a paper bag and gives it to the guy who paid for ’em. They’re looking at us. Then they look at each other with faces that I just absolutely hate to death, the ones just before I don’t get to walk around anymore and everything is tight and too bright and no more just going wherever I wanna go in my slippers. Why is everyone so uptight in this town?
A voice whispers inside June’s hiding face, “Let’s get out of here.” I leave. We head for the door. June opens it and I’m out. I got out! The little “somebody just came in” bell tinkles. They let us leave. I don’t know where I am, but I decide to own it. I walk like it’s on purpose. I don’t need these assholes.
They caught me shoplifting at the grocery store. I don’t even remember what I had but the checkout girl said something that could have saved my face, whatever that means. Don’t remember what it was and I just stayed put until they pointed to something under my coat I just left it on the counter and walked out.
Kate comes up to us the other day and tries to be nice and I HATE THAT. You can’t be nice to someone this far away. It’s like making toast and applesauce and then trying to reach up to hand it to them on the moon. You will never reach me with your nice. No way to fix what you want to be nice to. It’s too far down and no amount of you getting over yourself and coming up to talk to June can find me where I am. It’s too late.
They finally get me to a psychiatrist.
I’m normal now. I don’t go out in my nightgown no more. And nobody says nothin’ about that time, which is nice. I talk to Dr. Williamson once a week. He says maybe I should check out the Incest Survivors meeting. But I tell him that would be wrong. That would be just downright disrespectful, peepin’ in on their suffering and all. Those people have actually suffered. And there I’d be, sashayin’ in, hearing private stuff that nobody should hear unless for a legal reason or somethin’. It would be wrong.
I never went.
But I’m normal now, so it don’t matter anyways. And me and my husband are doing so much better. He says people in my generation are soft. I tell him maybe so, but watch it old man, I’ll just wait’ll you’re asleep and then get my revenge, and then we laugh. We joke around like that. It’s all good. Things have quieted down a lot since I learned to be normal.
But sometimes, I’m the kitchen, got the burgers in the pan and I’m settin’ the table. I reach for the salt shaker, and then all of a sudden I catch sight of her
crouched down low inside my belly. Bidin’ her time.