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Story by Michelle Zellers (Read author interview) June 15, 2008

Art by Robinson Accola

The structure of this house is giving way. The porch, never any good, now leans so far that I bend my face with it to protect my eyes from both from the sun’s glare and the sight of it tilting in the mud. A rain, yesterday, bleared the colors here: gem green and silty red-brown now swirl like the water I use to clean my paintbrushes. In this weather, I wonder if my memories could melt and take the universe along.

Another time, Mom went out to buy milk and grape juice and Dad was to supervise my finger painting. He could never stay awake when we played. A sadistic child, the kind who held magnifying glasses over sanguine ants, I got ideas. I crept where he lay and touched his nose, skittishly at first. At last I patted my messy hands over his cheeks. He was mine. Not Mom’s—he was not for Mom who picked him with purpose and gave up everything, but for me who paid nothing and got to discover him. Dad had big pores. Even through the bright, gloppy purple I patted on, I knew his whiskers could grow. I studied my father that day. I kneeled close to him on the carpet and curled a finger around the bone that holds the eye, imagining his skull. My finger rested there, a comatose little worm, and it was there when Mom got home from the store and found a cold Daddy on the couch.

Bigger now, my index finger still touches the memory. I flex it. It’s damp August on Hill Street, and somehow in the watercolor wet I realize something I’ve always known. I’m scared. There’s a string—a kite string in my memory—dangling from the sky and offering to lift my feet as soon as I give myself leave. I think I could get to where my father is. Instead I frown and sink through wet weeds, a woman on a Michigan lawn post-rain.

About the Author

Michelle Zellers is an undergraduate English and Political Science student at the University of Michigan. The 2006 publication of her children’s book Maya’s Magic Carpet was made possible by the literacy organization WE READ, and hundreds of free copies were distributed to Detroit Elementary School students.

About the Artist

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-One

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