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The fire chief’s car

We seldom spent any time together or saw things
in the same way. In spite of spending sixteen years in the same
house. You were into horses. 4H. I bet on them. Your friends were tall
wholesome young girls. Mine liked another sort. You with good

skin. Me with acne. You loved the smell of straw and alfalfa. I smoked
dope. He bought you ice cream for Cs on your report card. I got
back-handed. But it was expected. You were my sister. And yes you
brought me a lot of grief. Your door-swinging on the refrigerator

at the age of eight. Nearly crushing you as it falls in slow motion. Jars
of mayonnaise and jelly and bottles of milk shattering and pork chops
and green beans spilling on the floor. An earthquake in the kitchen.
I saved your life but he whipped me. Sent us both to bed

for a week. One Saturday he stands on the patio with a willow
switch in hand. Shows me the new hammer found buried all winter
in the backyard. Perfectly rusted. Forgotten after you’d pounded nails
into some new hobby. I lived in fear he would find something else

I hadn’t done. But hey? Do you remember Mom’s old ‘47
Chevy painted green like an army tank? I’ve just gotten my learner’s
permit and we take a ride through the neighborhood. Laughing all
the way down Wildwood Drive. Turning up Ravenswood. Then winding

round Crows Park Road coming to an unanticipated stop on Blackwillow
when our right fender buries itself in the bright red door of the fire
chief’s car. Thinking back on this is like feeling the sun
on my face after its broken out from behind a bank of fog. Oh my

god. I don’t dare tell your father she cried. He’ll kill
you. Our mother my savior. She told him she’d been hit while parked
in a lot downtown. Something like that. The fire chief must have liked
the way she looked. Maybe they struck a bargain. Now it’s just

you and me. I’m a careful driver these days. You’ve
just remodeled your kitchen. My tools organized on pegboard. We live
far enough apart not to worry about the other. Causing
trouble. You wondering how we made it this far. I call it mercy.

     
     
     
     
     
     
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