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Shirley Temples

TGreenwoodPic#3

by T. Greenwood

 

This is the dim place,

the dark place where

my friend T’s

parents sat sipping

serious dark drinks in

heavy sweaty glasses

and the waitress

kept bringing

us girls Shirley Temples.

It was the first time

I’d ever tasted grenadine.

 

All afternoon,

we sat in the booth

that looked out at parked trucks

and, across the way, an abandoned

strip mall. It was snowing.

The sky gray, like nighttime.

 

We were supposed to be

Christmas shopping.

But T’s parents

had wanted to stop

for a drink along the way.

So here we were,

at this steakhouse on Rte 5,

where kids were allowed inside

until after dinner when it turned

into a bar. They even had placemats

with a map of Vermont to color. Tiny

packages of waxy crayons to trace

the fragile lines of a Maple leaf maze.

 

We never made it to Zayre’s or Ames,

the places T’s parents said we were

going. I put my plastic purse filled

with the money I’d saved

in my Christmas Club

at the Lyndonville Savings bank

on the table next to my drink.

I remember T’s lips

were maraschino cherry stained.

 

Outside, the gray slowly turned

to black, and it kept snowing.

The snowflakes catching

in the streetlights

like a negative of dust

in a ray of sunshine.

 

Finally, they decided it was time

to go, and we got in the car, I thought

to head home. But T’s mother

wanted to stop at the liquor store

first. Laughter and cracked vinyl seats.

Neon lights and the heavy door moaned

open. In the parking lot,

T’s mother bent over, crumpled

like a brown paper lunch sack

and vomited on a snow bank.

T and I sat in the back

seat, staring at our hands.

 

We went somewhere else then,

to a house where people were finishing

dinner, relatives, I think, and I asked

to use the phone to call home.

When my mother answered,

her voice was swollen.

Where are you? my father demanded

on the other line. But I was only nine,

and I didn’t know the names

of any of the roads

that had taken us here.

Put T’s father on, he said.

 

At home, that night,

the porch light glowed strange

and waiting as we lurched

into the driveway. I said, Bye,

to T, tried not to slip

on the frozen steps as I moved

toward the open door

and my mother’s arms.

It’s okay, she said. You’re okay.

 

But my father stayed

on the porch, watching

as their car backed out

of the driveway and slid

down the ice-covered road.

Stood there long after

their headlights were gone.

- T. Greenwood is the author of eight novels, including the recently released Bodies of Water (September 2013). She grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where most of her novels are set. She now lives in San Diego with her husband, Patrick, and their two daughters, where she teaches creative writing and takes pictures. For more info, visit her website and blog.

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