By Madison Murray


     Alone now, on the green carpet, in the guest bedroom (Uncle Mike’s bedroom), criss-cross applesauce, she stared directly at the Samsung 2000 television that had been lazily dropped on the floor in front of the yard-sale bookcase without any books, only: Tomb Raider 2, and Crash Bandicoot, and International Superstar Soccer Pro ‘98, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, and soccer, guns, hot chicks, and cars. She was alone. She was supposed to be watching Murder She Wrote with Grandma, but Grandma was tired and Grandma’s legs and hips hurt and Grandma wanted more Kool-aid and Grandma didn’t have enough time for herself anymore and Grandma felt like throwing her husband off the balcony that still had a cement floor without any plants or plastic see-through lawn chairs. So she was alone in Mike’s bedroom. Mike was old, somewhere between forty and sixty, but his mother was much older than he was and she loved to watch Murder She Wrote on the green sticky velvet reclining sofa, and Mike, the son that lived close to his mother (her second son lived somewhere in Florida and the third son lived in the woods), loved Philadelphia Cheesecake bars from the freezer and video games. They both loved Jesus.

     She was the louder one, the louder and younger sister even though everyone around her was equally as loud, if not louder. She was quiet today though, because today she was alone. And quiet. She was alone and in “Uncle” Mike’s bedroom, slowly and quietly and slowly clicking through the channels with the buttons on the remote, with the remote in her palm, with the TV in front of her face, with her bum on the carpet, and with no one around. She blinked and she blinked and her finger stopped pushing and she blinked her eyes and she stopped and with her finger above the “ch ^” button, she stopped blinking.

           Her grandma was the one to find her—Oh, Thank Jesus—catatonic and tuned into the Playboy Channel. There was a woman (more like a girl) and a man, and they both had brown hair and body parts, and lips, and tongues, and voices. Grandma said that she thought she had told him to get rid of that channel, because she wouldn’t, she could not, be found paying for something so sinful, and why would he even want to subscribe to that channel when he knew very well that the girls all liked to play in his room when he wasn’t around? And so she was dragged out of Mike’s bedroom, which was still sending screams of disgust from her Grandma and screams of something else from the television to her eight-year-old and waxy ear drums, by a hand not as thin or as silky as Grandma’s, tugging her scalp to make her brain flop around that much more. It wasn’t her fault, but it was her initial decision to choose whether or not to watch—to be intrigued, or curious, or whatever the hell it may be—and her decision (curiosity) was the wrong decision.


     With a boy now, on the dry pile of already fallen and already ready-to-decompose leaves, in the park behind the pond where the kiddies liked to skate when the water finally froze over, (even though there were those few that decided to take the chance of testing out their unused ice skates even when the ice was thin and not nearly ready for hockey season yet), she rested her slippery black hair on a mustard yellow corduroy lap. She was supposed to be running errands with her Mom, the one who always worked at City Hall and always complained about working at City Hall, and her Older Sister, the one who always pointed out that she was being stupid when her tongue would slip out of her mouth and her thoughts and her opinions (silly) about her Mom’s overcooked stuffed peppers, her Father's most recent drug arrest (crack), her Older Sister's inability to get a date for prom would also slip up at the most inappropriate times, but she had lied and said that she was feeling nauseous, because she usually did experience stomach issues, whether it was because of her anxiety or because of her inconsistent digestive system.

     So here she was in the park with a boy. The boy, a mediocre soccer player (defense), had just gotten his first blowjob the week before from a Lucy two years older from the town next over behind the bleachers of his sister's away game (lacrosse), and although he liked the personality of the girl that was on his lap near the pond, of course he wouldn’t mind a little “action”.

     She usually didn't like to touch anyone: Uncle Harry was too scratchy, and the first time her Father kissed her when she was eight years old and pigtailed, he left a rash on her chin, but today she was with a boy. She was warm, despite the cold, and she was with a boy, with her body in her puffy jacket, with her head on her white neck, with her black hair reaching from the roots of her head, leaving strands against a shakingly cold and obnoxiously anxious, but soft lap. Close. Not uncomfortable. Her head turned probably too hurriedly to face his crotch area, where a brightly yellowed stitch attempted to unhinge itself from the seam. She thought about ripping it out and off so that it could be in between her fingers. She couldn't blink, but she could wander up, never down. It was the raggy zipper of his coat that housed leftover balls of lint from the laundry that he had done last week after his mother had screamed at him to do so if he wanted to keep on playing his goddamn soccer. A button floated up and down, and then held its breath and she couldn't blink. A freckle, below his jawline stared back at her and his head began to move down, his eyes closed, her eyes not blinking.

     Her neighbor, Susan, had been walking her collie, Patrick, when she had found the two “snuggling” under the big oak tree which had been there since the town was established in 1846, and naturally, all for the well-being of such a young girl just starting out High School and beginning to find herself, and finding herself does not include indulging in boys, because all boys only want one thing, really (Playboy Channels and video games), Susan told Mom about the day in the park, and because she told Mom, Mom told her Sister, and together they punished her. A week without television, or friends (same thing).


     At college now, or “University” as her roommate, Lucy, called it, because Lucy was from somewhere in England, but not London, (because jeez -  not everyone from England is from London... that’s like saying all people from America are from New York City), she sat at her too-pale-to-be-real wooden desk, blue and sometimes white, depending on the website, light washing over her face in attempts to keep her awake. She, a biology major, never stayed up too late studying for any of her classes (especially not for Mr. Fern’s “Intro to Zoology” class, because who wants to study animals anyway?) but she always stayed up too late researching the IMBD’s of her favorite male actors, each time realizing that 6’2” is, in fact, not average. She was supposed to be somewhere, some party (more like a chill session), with Lucy, who was a year older than her but still hadn’t lost her virginity, even though she had had the opportunity to that night after junior prom with Freddy Kerdle (drama club nerd), her prom date, but was too scared to go through it and then, because of her “social anxiety,” which has been properly diagnosed, lied and told him that she had gotten her period. Poor Lucy. But, for this night, because the weather was cooler than usual (forty degrees) and because she had a test in the morning, she wanted to stay in, even though she knew that she wasn’t going to study for said test in the morning, but would instead watch something she wouldn’t watch with her roommate around—My Little Pony or porn.

           So she was at her desk alone, with no one to watch over her shoulder or talk about ingrown genital hairs, which she usually didn’t mind hearing about, considering as to how open and “woman-like with a bit of lumberjack” she was, but tonight was her night and tonight was for her. Not Lucy. Or Jesse, some boy she’d been flirting with (screwing around with) who liked grapefruit juice for breakfast and burning his hands with his cigarettes (just Marlboros) when he was under the influence of whiskey, but never tequila, because he refused to go near that stuff, due to that night over Spring Break where he was found naked in a stranger’s pool, and was in fact, 6’2”. She didn’t need to compromise for anything. With her back against her chair, with her hand against the mouse of her computer, and with her other hand against her knee (she wasn’t “in the mood” yet), she skimmed through Sexy DP and Best Friends Have A Sleepover! and Oral Montage, ranging from three to fifty minutes—she preferred thirteen-minute videos.

           Lucy had been walking back from the “chill session” to the apartment, only tipsy, but never blackout (except for on holidays and Fridays), to stop by and grab her iPhone that she had left hidden under her favorite boyfriend-sized pillow (what’s the point of getting drunk if you can’t drunk text people?) when she found the girl amongst the company of two other ladies, one a woman in latex and the other an eighteen-year-old (check the description) in pigtails, and a man in nothing. Lucy played it cool in that moment, laughing and rolling her eyes cause it’s silly and childish to care about porn, but it became obvious that she had been freaked out during group outings when she would continue to bring up her findings to try to impress the others (boys).


     With a husband and two boys now, on the hammock between the two maple trees, in the garden in the backyard, she learned how to cradle herself without the rough construction working hand’s of her hubby or the thin silky hands of Mom (who had died quietly in her sleep one night in Paris, a trip she had always wanted to go on and she eventually could, because her two daughters had finally agreed on working together) but was not buried beneath the ground, because she had claustrophobia like the Older Sister did.

     She worked as a bank teller at a small bank in the same town her Mom had decided to raise her in, which was a wise decision, given its sense of community and the fact that all of the trees could potentially hold hammocks (if a family ever wanted that sort of hippie thing), while her husband, Patrick (not Susan’s collie) who only ever drank coffee (“black” with two sugars) and liked handcuffing his wife to the bedframe at least every other month, because sometimes he just needed to be reminded of his manhood, a quality he had lost ever since he had kissed a Henry behind the bleachers his sophomore year of high school, stayed at “home” playing frisbee in the backyard and scrubbing the bathroom tile and fishing for the remote in the cracks of the brown leather reclining sofa so that he could catch a few episodes of his favorite show (Scooby Doo) that reminded him of his childhood in the South, on Netflix, not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Patrick did the scrubbing and the playing, and she did the cooking and the storytelling. Every night, except for the weekends, because that was date night, she would sit with the Older Son, the one who got A’s in the fifth grade and hated macaroni and cheese from the box more than anything alive, on his black and white duvet covered mattress and tell him the same story each night about ghosts and vampires and a little girl who befriended them all named Holly, and then sit with the Younger Son, the one who still ran around the house without pants on (it wasn’t an age thing, because the Older Son never did that when he was the Younger Son’s age,) and hated anything having to do with Cowboys, but not Indians, on his red racecar framed mattress, and tell him a different story each night.

     Alone now, on the un-pledged but still shiny hardwood floor, in the living room, criss-cross applesauce, she stared at the black, but somehow still static, television screen that had been bought off a man having a “Garage Sale” in his front yard for “only fifty dollars”, when apparently it should have only been twenty-five dollars, given the static, not only waiting, but also wishing for something to take her by surprise—a blink, or a moan, or a lap, or a dog, or a height, or a tree, or a compromise. Her husband had left her for a man named Charlie, and she should have known because of his extreme use of hair gel and the way that he’d always crack his knuckles whenever he was around an “attractive male,” whatever that means, and the two were planning on getting married in June in the South somewhere in the woods. She was invited. She didn’t have a husband to throw over the balcony, but she did have a balcony with a tomato tree that grew yellow tomatoes in the summer, even though she never ate/used any of them for anything, and she did have two sons— the Older: he lived in the suburbs with his cat and wrote “novels” about teenagers getting lost in the wilderness, and the Younger: he lived in the same town as he always had, the same as her, and had never gone to college or University, but visited her every week to watch a movie or to tell her a story about his day or about what he had read in the small town’s newspaper. But today was her day to be alone, because everyone was working or getting married or taking a nap in the garden. She was alone and she stared at the television alone, without a lap or without a hand to pull her hair. She stared and she blinked and she blinked and she stared and she sighed and she rolled her eyes and she waited.