An afternoon during the war, and her father is gone, and the wind in the
cotton-wool sky is wide and fleet and ethereal, but here is its tug,
hair in her mouth, raking popcorn and gum foil over the dirt past
the toes of her Mary Janes. And Jack laughs. Willie laughs. And she blinks,
then closes her eyes, for here is the wind in full, molding her ruffled
bones, shooting a fizz of particles down the curved stretch of the
And she puts out her hand, but when she opens her eyes again, Willie,
brother, is gone. Willie, she says. Who gets letters from her father,
letters from the
sea, and not her, because she cannot read, although she likes the
simple cartoons he draws of the character Henry Hound. Willie, she says.
in the Disney
style, the Hounds grin like an open travel trunk, the Hounds pupils glinty
dots in huge white eyes that will swallow you whole. Whats Henry Hound say?
Always listen to your teacher. When you are done playing straighten your room.
Be a swell brother to Evelyn. And Willie is swell, but the light of his kindness,
she knows, cuts out, the kindness itself at those times as far away from where
she stands as her father in the Eastern sea. Which is why she worries, which
is why her face gets pinched in the way her brother has demonstrated for Jack
with a face of his own. Willie, she says. But theyre gone. Willie and Jack.
And she pushes down inside herself a runny smear of panic, and feels herself
buoyant, forced up by what is forced down, floating, as if someone else is
moving her feet in her Mary Janes, rolling the leather soles of them over sharp
pebbles and rock-hard dirt. If she can stay calm she will be rewarded, she
knows, by Willies calm return. If she can endure. But all movement is movement
away. She has to stop, and she does, and shes struck with a knee in gray slacks
and her lung is jounced. Pardon. Shes brushed with a hand. The sun has come
out from a cloud, and she hears in the tinny screams of kids on the Scrambler
its sudden glare. She looks towards the Scrambler, which is silver, a wheel
of hard light, the hole-poked faces thrown at her, then jerked out of orbit,
erased. Willie, she says. And the sky closes up once more in a fragrance of
cotton candy. A bell rings. Hooray. And she moves, because she has been seen:
the fortune teller is looking at her, and not stopping, though every moment
brings a stranger to block her view. Evelyn moves faster. Spill the milk! Three
balls for a nickel! She jogs but shes weak and can hold nothing firm in her
body as she does. She sinks to her knees, by the line for the merry-go-round.
Watches the sleepless horses bob to an oil-smelling song that rolls and rolls
without being played. And she hears a twined sound, a call for someone whos
lost, and she turns, but the person staring at her through the crowd
is not her brother.
The fortune tellers secret name is that word nobody will say, the word her
mother tries to oppose with small lights in the sockets of rooms. The hand
of the fortune teller over Evelyns hand as she follows along
presses an assignation of something into the tissue, into the bones.
A cup of jewelly water to lift and touch to her lips and tongue.
Lift and touch. Lift and touch. Evelyn, she says. Evelyn Rasmussen.
has been asked.
Is the water a mirror? There is nothing at all in its frame. Its empty. She
holds it in both of her hands, and rises, and looks at the faces of the boys,
the soft faces, and watches their smiles give way. Theyre waiting.
For what? She looks at them. She looks into the hole of their fear.
Return to Archive