Before the paramedics arrive, the father tucks in his four-year-old daughter and surrounds her with twenty-two stuffed animals and assorted photographs. In five, she is sitting in his lap. In eight, she is at an amusement park. In two more, she is hugging a stuffed lamb. In one, she is eating Rice Krispies. Her head is carefully propped on the bed’s ruffled pillow. Later, the police count a dozen stab wounds. If Shout were applied immediately to the sheets, the stains would dissolve into temporary.
At the playground, the week before, she played with my son on the short slide, both too afraid of heights. Her father waved when she reached the top. My son gave a thumb’s up, his victory temporary when he slipped and fell. There was no permanent damage.
At home, we cleaned the un-bleeding knee, adhered Spiderman bandages. My son asked about the little girl, if she’d made it down OK. I had forgotten to look but answered immediately. He did not question my truthfulness.
In the future, when my daughter trips and breaks her nose, we ignore the speed limit getting her to the hospital. My son worries about the police, watches out the window for their flashing disc, insists he can hear a siren. Inside the emergency room, the nurses look at me suspiciously. They ask me again how it happened. Before this conversation takes place, I will need to rehearse a scenario.
Today, I wait impatiently in the waiting room, reading Power Ranger books to my son. When he falls asleep, I scan the local paper, looking for the trial, how long the father will be in. After an hour, the nurse asks why I’m there. “No reason,” I say, trying to sound temporary.
Memory often re-arranges events, adds elaborate details. More often than not, the effect is permanent. You will forget this detail immediately after it is read.
Marjorie Maddox is the director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Lock Haven University. She has published several books including Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award). Her poems, stories, and essays can be found in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, and American Literary Review, among other journals. She is the co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (PSU Press 2005). Her short story collection, What She Was Saying, was a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter Book Award. Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, PA.
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