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Janae Green

Her Father's Chair

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The rocking noise in the living room shakes her awake; heat swells in her throat and draws father-shapes. The Girl peels from her bedsheets, soppy and yellow from sleep, and bursts down the hallway. She passes the black garbage bags before her body remembers—and sees her mother there. Bent over her father's chair, her mother is a sweaty pile of hair and pink négligée. Her arm fat wags over a soapy sponge. Chemicals bathe the air, but a thick odor seeps through the white-hot stench of bleach: a heavy metallic smell like warm pennies.

The Girl deflates. She empties her throat and slides down the wall. She folds inside her skin and pulls at the flesh around her eyelids. Shrinking, she crumbles until her body devours her daughter-shape, and she is a heap with the dust-mites on the carpet.

Outside the window, The Girl hears the wet children play. Swollen laughter rattles the glass. She tears at the wallpaper: it falls apart in her fingers. The hole makes a wide, sleepy mouth. Tears spill down her cheeks while she fingers a second hole, and then another. She strips stacks of paper-tongues and sticks the pieces all over her wet skin, her knotted hair, and her nightgown.

Licking her runny upper lip, she follows the red stains on her mother's négligée. A dark crust trails down her hairy legs. The Girl thinks, Devil. Woman, and watches her mother scrub away her father's shape. His leathery smell melts in her strokes of bleach. He bubbles.

Red-faced, The Girl stares at the wall: dozens of sleepy mouths gape back at her, but she feels them screaming. The room swallows her whole.

The Girl jerks when the floorboards creak. Her mother's legs tower over her. Between her thighs dangles a string. A warm drop splashes The Girl's cheek and drips onto her chest, her shoulders.

Bloody and trembling, The Girl sinks her head inside her nightgown. She watches through the dark spots on the fabric as her mother scratches her thigh and lights a cigarette. She presses the filter everywhere but her lips.

"Little girl," she says, her mouth stretched into a thin, purple grin, "Does he look the way you remember him?"

The Girl slips a piece of wallpaper into her mouth.

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