by K.C. Lichty
Her mother was full of big ideas. I’m going to join the Merchant Marines, she said, travel the world, she said, sail up the Amazon or the Volta or the Niger and pick cocoa beans right off the tree, make you the freshest, freshest hot cocoa in the world, she said. Instead, it was living with Tom in a gardeners shack behind a great white Plantation house overlooking the Potomac, a retired Merchant Marine, his comb-over sagging after his bath, naked beneath his towel watching from the doorway of the daughter’s bedroom. We’re going to Mexico, the mother said, live by the Pacific Ocean, she said eat the freshest, freshest of crab claws, chilled in the coolest of ice, drink directly from coconuts, she said, holes drilled right through the meat, with umbrellas and straws, beneath palm trees every day. Instead, it was a massage parlor, neon leaking beneath the door, the daughter into the wardrobe amid the rayon robes just before each client, spying the curve of a hairy back or ass or shoulder. Texas, Texas is where we should go. I’ll become a roughneck, she said, put my hands into the earth and pull out piles of money, she said. We will bathe in dollar bills, shred and eat tens in our salads, she said. Instead, it was Quincy, the blind Jehovah’s Witness, his double-wide outside San Antonio, the daughter a ghost. We are the same person, the mother said, because he’ll only let me live here. “No children” she said he said. And I’m a Witness now, she said, elsewise he won’t let us live there. If he comes into your bed, you are me, me you. If he asks you to rub his feet, your hands are my hands, elsewise we are thrown out. The mother was running out of ideas. And so the daughter slept in the closet, curled among the Watchtower pamphlets, a raincoat her blanket, listening for the creak of the bedroom door, the hiss of Quincy’s hand groping along the wall. Until one day she fell asleep curled in her mother’s arms, crawled out from her closet-bed in the middle of the night, fever sweat coating her body. And Quincy came into the bed, reached out his hand for the mother and found two pairs of legs instead of one.
K.C. Lichty is a first year MFA candidate at Arizona State University. Last year he was a copywriter for the National YoungArts Foundation, and the year before that he was an M.A. in Writing student at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.