by Elizabeth Kirschner
“Bedtime girls,” says my father who is tall, lean, elegant and ugly, a stranger to my heart. Because I am a dutiful daughter, I have already taken on the vocation of devotion, want to light votive candles for both my parents, there on the breakfast bar where the liquor bottles glint like idols.
“Yes, I’m tired,” I say before turning down the hallway to my room to don the flannel nightgown with the snowmen on it, the one I wore as a child while dancing my ballerina dance before the mirror above my bureau. It just comes down to my elbows and knees now, but still I dance my ballerina dance while longing to leap out of a room cold as a tomb.
I curl up in bed, listen to my mother come down the hallway while hitting the walls like a sack of potatoes. Her door hisses closed. “Goodnight, Mom,” I call out but all I hear in return are her gnarled words, “Not now, Bill” before she sinks like a frigid fish in frigid water into frigid sleep. I follow suit and darkness occupies the house like a lowly tenant or a sentry scanning a killing field.