*GATOR SPRINGS GAZETTE
a literary journal of the fictional persuasion

CRY FOR US, TOO

JUST WASH IT AWAY
Tawsha K. Brinkley

When it came out, I heard no sounds except for Mama's sobs of joy. Over and over she was saying, "She's not ruined, praise the Lord. No one has to know." Mama was crouched down on the beige carpet clutching the old apron with red strawberries on the hem, rocking back and forth.

The pain had ended. I lay on the bed and watched a cloud cover the moon outside the double pane window. My body was tired, but peaceful.

I didn't speak to Mama as she got up off the floor and carried the apron to the blue dresser. I caught a glimpse of a little hand with five perfect fingers falling limp from the apron. Mama looked at me, pieces of brown hair peaking out from her petal curler cap; I believe I saw a slight smile come across her face. Quickly the hand was covered.

A gentle tap on the oak door, Mama wiped blood off her hands onto her pineapple housedress and opened the door. Poor Daddy, he couldn't look at me. He was wiping tears from his eyes with his crinkled white handkerchief. Standing on her toes she whispered in his ear. He agreed with a shake of his head. Within moments he was back with his Stetson hatbox. Sitting it down, he turned and walked away.

Mama took the lid off. Something special must be going inside, I thought. Daddy would never let his hat take a breath of air unless he was wearing it to a special occasion.

Taking the tissue paper out of the center hole in the box, she sat it aside. She turned her back to me at the dresser, but I could see her reflection in the mirror. Bending down to it, I saw her cracked thin lips kiss its forehead, then carefully she wrapped the old apron around it like a doll in a blanket. It was small in Mama's hands. Turning towards me, she laid it into the center of the box and placed the tissue paper around the sides. With a few strips of masking tape, the lid was secured.

I heard the engine of Daddy's truck turn over, once, twice, it started. I knew then what would happen to it. He was taking it to the ditch out in the middle of our pasture. The ditch was full of everything we didn't want anymore and some things we did. Mama's old washing machine and stove, old bricks and building materials. It was a lifetime of junk strewn along a fifteen-foot ditch.

When I found my baby dolls burned there, I dug through the mangled mound of melted plastic and found a Betsy Wetsy doll head with her red tattered bow. I quickly stuck it under my shirt and took it home. Sometimes at night I take it out of my closet and hold it tight next to my chest till I fall to sleep.

When Daddy came back to the door, he was wearing his gloves and McCloud jacket. His cheeks were red from the cold. Mama picked up the box, and he held his hands out to receive it, shutting the door behind him. She looked at me appearing almost giddy; her eyes were bright and smile wide. "You need to get up now. I need to wash these linens. Go take a bath. Wash it all away."

When she helped me to my feet, blood spilled onto the wood floor. I watched it trickle into the cracks. Without a word she removed my stained rose flannel nightgown.

"Tonight you can use my little lilac perfume soap if you want. Just wash it away. It'll make you feel better."

When I stepped into the bathroom, the cold tile was a shock to my feet. For a moment my body shivered. I turned on the faucet. Mama continued to yell through the door.

"And don't stay in there too long. Remember school tomorrow, I'll pick you up early and go shopping at S&H for a new dress."

Tomorrow I would find where Daddy put it.

© Twasha K. Brinkley 2005

Tawsha K. Brinkley (tawsha@gmail.com) has been published in several online magazines. Her work, The Wait, will appear in the May 2005 issue of the print magazine, Penwomanship. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her family.

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