The Grave Keeper
by Mike Aronovitz
My name is Penny Nickelbottom, and I hate boys because they’re
mean and they smell. Last week at recess, Billy Fritz called me a freckle-face and it really hurt my FEELINGS. Mommy says
that my freckles are beautiful, and we even counted them one night when I couldn’t sleep because I was scared that there
was a dead girl with frizzy, black hair and long, scratchy fingers hiding in the cedar chest by the window with the scary
shadows that come from the back yard. Mommy sat next to me and rested her chin in the little corner between my shoulder and
my cheek, and we looked at ourselves in her fairytale mirror, the one from her bedroom with the ivory rim. And for every freckle
I got a KISS! Seventy three. That’s how many freckles I have on my face. Really it’s eighty five, but some of
them blot together, especially on my nose and my forehead. Daddy says I am his pretty copper dolly-girl, and he says my red
hair is the fire and my freckles are the stars!
Billy Fritz has dark, stupid little eyes and he never reties his
sneakers, even though he’s in the fourth grade! I KNOW he doesn’t, because the old knots are always on the same
side by the same eye holes, and the flaps that my Mommy calls tongues are never pulled straight. He puts them on like slippers
because he is lazy and he’s always dirty and he’s PERVERTED! I know because after he called me a freckle-face
I called him a shitty-head and then he chased me and I couldn’t run as fast as usual because I was wearing my shiny
black church shoes. He caught up with me at the jungle gym and pushed me down onto the woodchips and they were wet and cold
because it rained the night before. He got on top of me and held down my wrists and I played Give-up for a second because
usually boys don’t hurt you when they win. But something came out of his mouth, and it was a gummy spit-rope that he
let down so low it touched my nose before he sucked it back up. Kids were laughing and I tried to
scratch him. I pushed with my legs and my hips and my arms and he
called me a wild horsie and then his stupid little eyes went misty, like he was half asleep.
I felt his penis on my stomach through my dress and his pants. It
was like a little snake and it moved and someone pulled him off me and I told the PRINCIPAL about it. I know very well about
the birds and the bees because Mommy told me that when two people love each other and they are older they put their penis
into the lady’s ‘gina, and I know you aren’t supposed to touch those things except in the BATHROOM! Even
though some boys are nasty and pee outside, I know I am not supposed to feel their penises through my dress by the jungle
gym! When a man and lady are older and they sexy each other it should be in the BATHTUB with the DOOR LOCKED because that’s
the place where you are allowed to be naked!
Mommy made me tell the counselor about it and I don’t like
him. First of all, he’s not like a camp counselor at all, he doesn’t even let you draw! He just crosses his legs
and asks questions in this really soft voice like he’s making every moment special or something. And they were questions
that should only be asked in the BATHROOM, like what my feelings were when Billy’s penis touched my stomach and how
bad I felt being held down. Duh! He also asked me why I dumped the cup of hot soup on the back of Billy’s neck the next
day in the lunch room and I wonder if counselors have to go to college, like at all. He asked if I felt bad that Billy had
to go to the hospital and I said of course I felt bad because it was the good soup, the chicken with stars, and everyone waited
all week for chicken and stars-day and you were never allowed to get seconds or you got in TROUBLE.
That night I dreamed that I was being chased by a snake that wanted
to squirm all over my stomach. It was a snake with stupid little eyes, and I was tied down, and it coiled on my stomach and
rose up like it was being charmed out of a basket. Then it leaned over me and let gooey spit drip down to the end of my nose.
When I woke up I knew I had dreamed about a penis and I also knew
it was not something I was going to tell the counselor about, or like anyone.
Billy Fritz has one. The Principal has one. The counselor has one!
DADDY has one! And they all act like they don’t, until they lay on top of you, put it on your stomach, and look all
misty when it moves and gets bigger.
But how do they play and work and eat and sit down with that thing
there, and also that bag that hangs behind it like Katrina Barns told me about? I know they have underpants like ladies have
bras, but bras are shaped like boobs and the underwear I see in the wash isn’t shaped like anything. Is boy underwear
like a loose Band Aid? What if a penis is so long it sticks out the side? Does it curl up like the line on the Weedwacker
machine? Does it poke straight or go off to one side? And what if the boy thinks about a girl’s tummy and gets stick-penie
in class, like in front of a TEACHER? When they cross their legs, don’t they choke the blood out of it and smoosh the
baggie underneath? And how about when they poop? Is there a special penis holder that they buy at Walmart that makes it so
the long ones don’t dangle in the water?
I had so many questions, and no one to answer them. I was going to
ask Mommy, but she’s a girl and she wouldn’t know anyway. When it was time for her to sexy in the tub with Daddy
and make a baby, I’m sure she didn’t look. Who would?
Daddy came home from work and put down his briefcase. I wanted to
walk right up to him, make fists at my sides, and say “Show me your penis!” But I didn’t. I gave him his
Daddy hug and went up to my room, after promising not to watch television while I was up there. Mommy told me to read one
of the new books she put on my shelf. I told her I would, and then I sat on my bed and sucked on the drawstrings of my sweatshirt
because they made juice. I thought about penises.
The Guitar Hero guitar was like a penis, and so was the Ouii controller.
The gearshift in Daddy’s car was like a penis, and so was the fireplace poker, the kitchen broom, the paint brushes
in art class, and the hockey sticks in gym. EVERYTHING was shaped like a penis all of a sudden. I was afraid to hold a pencil!
I had to see one, to try and understand what they really looked like
and why they made Billy Fritz’s eyes go misty. The only penis I ever saw, like naked, was the one on Angelique Gormley’s
poodle named Sparky, and that COULDN’T be what Billy’s or the Principal’s or DADDY’S penis looked
like! That thing was hairy and gross and when he followed you and wrapped his paws around your leg it looked red and wet and
WOUNDED like a muscle with no skin!
It made me think about a word Mrs. Fry taught us in Science class
last week. “Evolution.” If a dog penis looked like an open yucchy muscle, did a human one look like a healed little
mummy-man? I mean, if Sparky’s got wet and open when he thought of a dog-tummy or your leg, how come I never saw wet
marks on the boys at school, like on the front of their pants? If I can’t stop thinking about penises, they HAD to be
thinking of girl’s tummies at least some of the time!
And how come only dogs have the penises we can see? Trisha’s
grandma Bessie has five cats, and I never saw their penises. Are they all girls, or are cats just sneaky? John Sperry has
a hamster I saw once, but I don’t remember any penis. Besides, John Sperry smells like boy sweat, and his father works
in a tool house and always smells like nails and I don’t LIKE it over there because John Sperry picks his nose without
even using a tissue.
I thought about asking Mommy to take me to the zoo so I could look
at all the penises, but I hated the zoo because the pizza tasted like cardboard and the popcorn was always stale and creepy
people walked up to you and tried to make you buy stupid balloons. It also smelled bad and it was FAR AWAY, and I didn’t
have a good DVD for the car player. Mommy also KNEW I hated the zoo and she would be watching me watch for the penises that
might not even be there at all, and I didn’t want
Mommy watching me watch for things that I was only supposed to see
in the bathroom like when I was older. And I couldn’t just turn on the Nature channel ‘cause Daddy made it so
I could only get Nickelodeon and PBS on my TV.
The wind blew really hard outside and the tree knocked a branch against
the window scaring me. Suddenly I was sure the noise came from my cedar chest, and I thought the dead girl with the long,
black, frizzy hair and the broken neck was trying to get out again. Usually in the daytime, I would just go over to it, yank
it open and see that it was only blankets and quilts inside, but I didn’t want to because the cedar chest smelled too
much like wet woodchips, and now I was scared and I was also MAD!
Then I saw the Daddy Long Legs spider crawling on the bookshelf by
the window and above the cedar chest, right on top of the new book Mommy got me called From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil
E. Frankweiler. I looked at the spider and stood up slowly. I think I stopped chewing on my sweatshirt drawstrings, but I
I wondered if the spider was a girl spider.
I wondered if it had a penis.
It was tapping one of its big front legs and I thought it was watching
me but I couldn’t be sure. It was light brown colored like that little bit of barf that you spit out when you burp too
hard, and its eyes were black and beady. Close up, it looked like it had hair all over it and I felt my eyes crossing. Down
at the back side it looked like there were two little black nubs, but boys weren’t supposed to have two penises and
I didn’t know if I really saw it right because my eyes were crossed and tearing up and everything started to look like
a kolapascope. Then it started moving and its legs looked like the arms on a carnival ride, only hairy, and I reached out
and grabbed one of them. The body sucked in and hugged to the knuckle of my thumb and the legs went all mad and skittery.
I didn’t know whether the two black nubs were really two at all and I didn’t know whether they were penises, but
I did know that an angry spider thrashing his hairy legs is GROSS so I mooshed him.
I rubbed my hands on my pants really hard and then I took all my
clothes off and put them in the hamper. I put on my green bathrobe and sat up on my bed with my arms crossed. I didn’t
like the spider, and I didn’t really care if it had a penis or not anymore, because it was a BUG and it had eight legs,
and boys and girls only had two legs and two arms, like squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits, well sort of, if you counted their
little front legs as arms. But two and two still equals four, so their penises had to look like boy penises, or at least more
than the two nubs on a spider, and maybe Angelique’s dog was a “challenged” dog or a handicapped dog, like
Wilma Myers and her stub of an arm and her breathing machine. Yes! If a little furry animal had a penis that looked like a
little mummy or a little finger and not a wounded muscle, it would prove that Angelique’s poodle was a MISTAKE and DADDY’S
penis was ok! I frowned. Daddy told me that once a squirrel got caught between the storm window and the screen in the utility
room and it clawed the wire to shreds and that I should always be careful since wild animals sometimes looked cute but could
So what about frogs? I stuck out my tongue. I didn’t like frogs.
I heard they gave you warts. And thinking about frogs made me think of lizards and salamanders and even though they all had
four legs instead of eight I knew right then I wasn’t going to go looking under any rocks or wading in the cold water
of the creek that ran through the woods behind our house to go find any slimy toads or lizards or salamanders or snakes.
But I might find a bunny!
Maybe bunny-rabbits weren’t mean like squirrels, and if I made
friends with a bunny in the woods, he would let me look! Maybe he would let me touch it, just for a second like with a stick
or something, just to see if it moved, or turned to a red muscle, or stood up like a little toy thumb . I pushed out my lower
lip. Even the friendliest bunny wasn’t going to just roll over and let me poke at his penis with a stick. Even when
you tried to pet them, they ran away!
Then I had an idea.
I walked as quickly as I could out in the wind without spilling the
milk. The sky was gray and I had been thinking about this ALL NIGHT and then all day today, and now was my chance because
Daddy wasn’t home from work yet and Mommy went out just for a minute to get wine. I passed the swing set and I climbed
through the slats of the wooden fence at the end of our back yard. There was the downhill of the little gully, and then the
tire marks about a million years old with all these red and yellow leaves stuck in them. I had go sideways between the pricker
bushes and duck under some low branches. I tippy-toed over the log that went across the creek, and climbed the little hill
with the high grass that was dead now and made swishy noises against my pants. Then over the top I saw the old stone well,
the pump, the broken see-saw, and the cement sitting bench. Behind them was the bottom part of a building that was run over
with vines and brambles and ivy and moss. Daddy said it was the foundation of some old kindergarten school from like the eighteen
hundreds, and something about a lady named Elizabeth Peabody, but I was NEVER ALLOWED to come out here unless I was with him
or Mommy on an exploring day.
I stopped by the sandbox. There were puddles in it and the castle
I made when I snuck out here last summer looked like a lump. The wind blew through my hair, and I suddenly thought Daddy was
watching me, but it was just the branches all around the school yard nodding and bowing. I put the dish of milk down at the
front of the sandbox, and then I walked backward slowly. At first I thought the wind would blow all the milk out, but it seemed
to only make ripples, not waves. I hoped that a bunny would come and drink the milk and go to sleep. I wasn’t sure if
two night-night pills would be enough, but I mixed them and mixed them out in the garage until I was sure they were melted.
I hoped Mommy wouldn’t miss them.
I hoped that tomorrow morning I could see a real penis, close up,
with no one asking about it in a soft voice that sounded more special than it really was.
My eyes opened and I sat up and it was cold but I didn’t care.
The clock said 4:40 AM and I had to get out to the church yard to see if a bunny was sleeping there by the sandbox. I tried
to be quiet but I had to move fast because Daddy always got up at 5:30 to make coffee and oatmeal with maple sugar because
I didn’t like apples in my oatmeal and Mommy never ate anything in the morning at all. I didn’t want to open my
drawer because it always made noise, but I didn’t want to wear purple corduroys pants with spider guts on them either,
so I looked under my bed and found the pair of jeans with the heart shapes sewn into the knees and also Mommy’s old
heavy sweatshirt that said “Caution, Blonde Thinking.” I didn’t usually wear her old sweatshirt because
there’s a hole in the elbow and it comes down to my knees like a dress, but I had to move fast. I put on my sneakers
without untying them first, and that made me mad because it reminded me of Billy Fritz the pervert, but not too mad because
I suddenly thought that it would be funny to cut off the bunny’s penis and sneak it into Billy Fritz’s soup on
chicken and stars-day. For a second I thought it might hurt the bunny, but it would be deep asleep dreaming about eating clover
I stopped thinking about that stuff because it was 4:52 now. I opened
my door slowly at first, then really fast where the creak was and went out into the hall. I suddenly thought that maybe the
bunny wouldn’t be sleeping and dreaming about clover, but maybe just napping like Daddy on the couch during a football
game when he seems asleep but hears you going in the fridge to sneak a sip of Hersheys syrup that’s supposed to only
go on ICE CREAM AFTER DINNER!
I went into the bathroom and looked in the square ceramic jar where
there were two hairbrushes, a comb and the green tube Mommy used under her eyes in the fall and the winter. I tried not to
clack everything together and I got the cuticle scissors sitting at the bottom by the nail clippers.
I snuck out through the back kitchen door and hurried out to the
At first I didn’t think anything was there, well except the
empty bowl with a brown leaf stuck to the rim and the twig floating in the little bit of milk left on the bottom. My nose
started running and I rubbed it. I was MAD! Some bunny must have drank all the milk and ran away! The wind was making my ears
feel red and I wanted to SCREAM, like I always wanted to do in class whenever the teacher did fractions. Then I saw something.
Underneath the cement sitting bench, in the weeds, half sticking
out, half in the shadows, there was a paw with spiky nails, and whiskers that looked long and hard like pieces of Daddy’s
fishing line. There was an ear that looked like it was bent all funny and a head with gray fur and dirty white stripes. It
was a cat, a big cat, a forest cat, and I couldn’t see whether or not it had a penis because that part was in the shadows
under the sitting bench, but I did see its mouth, and it was wide open and there was a mouse crammed in it. At least I thought
it was a mouse. I couldn’t see its head, because that part was inside, but I knew the ugly cat with the hairy lion cheeks
was sleeping because it was breathing real slow, and I could see a slimy line of snot moving and gleaming in and out of one
of the black nostril holes.
I moved closer and put my hands on my knees. I had never seen a mouse
before, like except in cartoons, but this looked like the back end of a mouse if I ever saw one. It made me want to scream
even more than the ugly cat and boring teachers, but I didn’t know why. It had light fur that turned gray and sort of
pink on its tummy and its little legs stuck out and up. When I looked close it sort of didn’t look like a mouse anymore,
it sort of looked like a dinosaur from planet retardo, because its feet had pads on them that looked like tiny uneven pebbles
and its pinkie toe was the same size as the big one on the other side.
I knew where its butt was because there was a piece of poop that
looked like a black sesame seed coming out of it. And right under that, I thought I saw its little wee-wee. It looked like
a tiny ball of fur, almost like a pimple with a lot of hair on it. It didn’t look like a “gina, that much I knew!
I wanted to keep it.
I reached down the cuticle scissors just to touch it, to poke it,
just to see.
Suddenly there was a growl, and gray colors slashing and thrashing
all around and green slanted eyes that were mad like fire and I felt my sweatshirt that was really Mommy’s sweatshirt
getting pulled all over the front and the forest cat that was asleep was awake, and hissing through its nose and the mouse
was still in his mouth but he was STUCK TO MY SWEATSHIRT!
I yelled BAD CAT and jabbed the scissors into its head, right above
the green eyes in the place where there was a patch of white fur shaped like a triangle. It made a sound that was both hard
and mooshy, and the cat went crazy but its claws were stuck in Mommy’s sweatshirt, so it yowled and choked and then
its eyes went misty. That made me mad because the stupid cat suddenly looked like Billy Fritz, and I stabbed it again, this
time in the ear, not the bent one, but the other one that stood straight up, and I hit it deep in the soft place that looked
like an old wrinkled wanton in the soup I always got at Yang Ming because egg drop was really disgusting.
The bad forest cat fell off me and the mouse fell out of his mouth.
Its head was gone. I bent down and clipped off its penis, like a little hairy mouse pimple. I held it between my thumb and
my first finger and it didn’t feel like anything special really, at least nothing to talk in a soft voice about. I went
and put it in the corner of the sandbox under a little mound, way smaller than the one left over from my summer castle, and
I decided that this corner closest to the sitting bench was my secret place for penises now.
I went over to the dead cat. It was lying on its side with its legs
on top of each other like mirrors. I lifted one and looked.
It was a boy cat. I saw its dark brown penis right above a little
dark brown sack that looked like a tiny marble bag with the drawstring pulled tight. I cut off both and there was blood but
not a lot of blood and I put them in the sandbox in the corner closest to the bench. Then I looked around suddenly because
I was worried that someone would find the dead cat and the dead mouse and know that it looked like a little girl did it with
cuticle scissors. I really wanted to throw the animals down the well, but it had a thick gray wooden cover on it that you
couldn’t move at all because I tried to do it last summer and got a splinter. I moved to the middle of the box. My animals
could sleep right here in secret. I just had to pat everything down real nice and pretty so no one would think to look.
When I was finished, I had sand and blood on my hands but not that
much blood. There was blood on the scissors but only a little. Mommy’s sweatshirt had a few holes, but they weren’t
that big and not NEARLY as big as the one in the elbow.
I washed my hands and the scissor off in the creek and it was COLD.
I went back inside and put the sweatshirt back under the bed and took a shower and got in my school clothes and ran into Mommy
and Daddy’s room and jumped on the bed and asked for maple sugar oatmeal. Daddy gave me a Daddy hug and Mommy gave me
a Mommy kiss, and I went back to make my bed because I was always forgetting and Daddy said I had to learn RESPONSIBILITY.
When I got back from school I had to remember to go get the dish
sitting on the old grainy wood surrounding the sandbox. And I had to be SENSIBLE next time and melt three of Mommy’s
pills instead of two.
Tomorrow morning when I snuck out, I was going to bring the cuticle
And a steak knife.
I have twelve animals in my sandbox. They have really nice names,
and I even like the nasty ones now that they’re QUIET and RESTING! Mickey and Tom-Tom got the best place in the middle
because they were first, even though Mickey doesn’t have a head and Tom-Tom poked little holes in Mommy’s sweatshirt.
I put the others in a circle all around them, and patted the sand down real nice and pretty. I caught two chipmunks named
Heckle and Jeckle, another mouse named Jasper, a raccoon named Crookster that I had to ram like twenty times in his fat stomach
before he’d stop pawing and quivering even half asleep like he was, a gopher named Bucktooth, a sparrow named Little
Willie, three squirrels named Teddie, Freddie, and Lou, and what I thought was a big rat, but turned out to be a FERRET, because
I looked it up during science lab. Her name is Jimmy-Bob. They all have boy names, even though both chipmunks, the gopher,
and Lou the squirrel are girls. I couldn’t tell at all with Little Willie, so I just clipped off her little dirty birdie
feet so I could make patterns in the sand if I got bored.
I took all the boy animals and cut off their penises with the cuticle
scissors. Each is like a tiny prize, and I put them all in the same corner like a little penis patch, careful not to dig exactly
where the last one was because once I cut them and squeezed them and rolled them around on my palm, I buried them forever,
because bugs might be down there now and I don’t LIKE bugs!
I like cutting off a penis because it feels like cutting through
a hard, gummy little rubber band and that feels GOOD, like a burp, like pushing that final poop, or getting the sneeze to
come out when it’s been hiding up inside your nose and you’ve had your eyes closed and your mouth half open for
like half an hour!
I also decided that I wanted to see if I could make a boy into a
girl, so Teddie ended up with his own ‘gina! Then I wanted to see what was under that, so when I put Freddie to sleep
forever, I used the cuticle scissors to cut him open, just a little.
When you pull the skin back it crackles like a tiny piece of bacon!
I thought there would be a lot of blood but there was only a little, and animals have neat colors inside, like a lot of pink,
some white stringy things and even some blue! Like a flag made for girls!
I like saving penises because their MINE, and when they’re
in the dirt they won’t be making shapes on top of my dress and crawling all over my tummy and making some smelly perverted
boy’s eyes go all misty.
I can’t wait for tomorrow! I’m gonna melt four of Mommy’s
pills instead of three and see if I can catch a wild goat, or a fox, or even a unicorn!
Tonight I’m going to dream of princesses and palaces made of
stars and moonbeams. I’m not even going to be scared of the dead girl in the cedar chest because everything is in its
place and the cedar chest is only made of blankets and quilts anyway.
And how scary is a dead girl, really? She doesn’t even have
I AM SO MAD!
When Daddy got home from work last night Mommy was washing the dishes
as she went because if you let them pile up and then throw the dinner dishes on top it’s a royal pain. When I went to
say hello, Daddy put up the stop-sign-hand like he had for the last COUPLE OF NIGHTS, and said he didn’t feel good and
he was going to take a shower and go right up to bed without dinner, and he didn’t even want to kiss Mommy hello or
he’d give her the flu. But I was HAPPY, and I wanted my Daddy hug, and not the little one where I buried my cheek in
his belly button, but the SUPER HUG that I used to always do when I was little, where I JUMP and wrap my legs around his waist
and throw my arms around his neck! So right before he turned to go upstairs I ran at him like a surprise and I jumped up to
get my hug even though he wasn’t ready.
I knocked him back a step and he was like, Whoa! and he tried to
turn his face away, but I kissed him right on the chin because I was too quick. His red beard was itchy but that wasn’t
what bothered me.
His face smelled like a ‘gina.
I put my cheek on his chest, then slid off. He went upstairs and
I smiled at Mommy even though it felt like I was lying, and I asked if I could go read chapter three of my new book. I was
glad she didn’t ask me about chapters one and two, because I hadn’t read any, and I didn’t even know if
this book had chapters at all.
My face felt really hot and prickly.
Daddy’s chin smelled like a ‘gina, and I knew it was
a ‘gina because I once smelled Mommy’s underwear from the laundry stack after she got back from the gym, and it
was gross and I only did it once I swear! And not only did Daddy’s chin smell like a ‘gina, but when he said Whoa!
his breath smelled like a ‘gina covered up with gum and it smelled HEAVY, like it didn’t just come from a laundry
pile. Daddy was only supposed to put his penis in Mommy’s ‘gina in the bathtub to make a baby, and if Daddy was
kissing another lady’s ‘gina, he might be thinking about sexing her too!
It was SO UNFAIR! I didn’t want a brother or a sister, especially
one that didn’t live in our house. And I knew that it wasn’t Mommy’s ‘gina that Daddy had been kissing,
because she always made a warm-up turkey a week before Thanksgiving so she didn’t mess up the real one when the Baltimore
cousins came over, and she had been cooking ALL DAY, and I know it for sure because when I came home from school she TOLD
I went into my room and pouted until it hurt. Then I cried a little
bit and rubbed my eyes hard with the back of my hand. I didn’t want to go with Mommy to the Church like we always did
with the turkey covered in tin foil and a trash bag on the seat so the juice didn’t stink up the mini-van like forever,
even though it was my JOB to make sure the turkey stayed put and for a treat I always got to eat extra skin off the Rotisserie
chicken she cooked for dinner next to the church turkey. I didn’t WANT to go down to the table and complain like I did
every year that I could eat leftover turkey for two weeks instead of one because I loved turkey leftovers, and I didn’t
WANT to eat Rotisserie chicken and I didn’t WANT to go to church and I didn’t WANT to think about Daddy’s
face smelling like a ‘gina.
I turned out the light and stared at the dark ceiling, and when Mommy
came up to see if I was OK, I told her I felt sick like Daddy and I just wanted to go to sleep. She called me her little cinnamon
stick, felt my forehead and kissed it goodnight. She said she would leave me a cold chicken sandwich in the fridge with honey
mustard sauce and extra skin. She closed the door really gently like the room was made of glass.
I thought about Daddy and his penis and strange bathtubs in strange
houses. When my clock showed 1:40 AM, I tiptoed across the room and opened my door, slow at first, then quick to avoid the
creak. I went into the hallway and down the stairs. To the living room. To the brown wicker basket under the black table by
the front door.
I opened the lid and got out Mommy’s sewing scissors. The walk
back up the stairs took a long time because I had never gone creeping up the stairs with sewing scissors before.
They were both snoring, Daddy a bit louder than Mommy, and everything
seemed peaceful and dreamy, even when I peeled back his side of the covers.
He was wearing his jammy bottoms and I saw the shape right there
underneath. I held my breath and everything seemed so slow that it took forever.
Then it went really fast.
My name is Penny Nickelbottom and I’m writing this because
the nice doctors say it will be good for me. They also tell me that I’ve been keeping a journal in this lap top for
a while, but I don’t remember that. There are a lot of things I don’t remember, but they say that’s normal.
They also say I hurt my Daddy and sent him to Jesus. They say that
I might have to stay in this hospital a long time until I open up and they find out why I did what I don’t remember
doing. I miss my Daddy. I miss my Mommy too, but she visits me every Thursday for an hour and every Saturday all afternoon.
She brings me books and holds me and sings to me and tells me I’m beautiful.
I hope I get better someday. I was going to get my own cell phone
next year, and Mommy was going to let me go on the internet with…what was the word…supervision!
I got the doctors all excited yesterday when I drew a picture of
a unicorn, but when they asked me if it was a boy or a girl, I don’t think I got the right answer. I told them it was
a girl of course, and they seemed disappointed. They asked if I ever dreamed of unicorns, or gophers, or ferrets, but I got
confused and they said everything would be alright and they would talk with me about these things at a later time.
I wish I remembered what they wanted me to remember. I only know
that before the nice policemen took me away for questions and a lot of soda if I wanted it, Mommy had bought me a new book
that I didn’t like too much. I remember that she cooked all day the day before I had to leave, and I took the early
bus instead of the late bus because Mrs. McFadden canceled chorus. I remember Mommy was leaning against the kitchen counter
and had on a bonnet and when I came through the door she seemed surprised, and before my kiss, she said she had to take something
off the stove. Then she spilled gravy on her blouse.
She went upstairs right away and I thought I noticed something but
I was wrong because when she came downstairs her jeans didn’t have those wet spots on the knees that didn’t look
like something that came from the kitchen like gravy, or beet juice, or melted butter for the potatoes, but more like dirt
or grit like she’d been kneeling in wet sand down the shore or something.
I hope the doctors help me with these memories and my brain and everything
I hope my Daddy rests well with Jesus.
Copyright © Mike
Michael Aronovitz is a Professor of English at Widener University
and Immaculata University. He has published short fiction in Midnight Zoo, The Leopard’s Realm, Slippery When Wet, The
Nighthawk, Crimson and Gray, Fiction on the Web, Philly Fiction, Studies in the Fantastic, Metal Scratches, Demon-minds, Weird
Tales, The Weird Fiction Review 2010, The Turks Head Review, Death Head Grin, and Black Petals. He has a story committed to
The Weird Fiction Review for 2011. Aronovitz published his first collection titled Seven Deadly Pleasures through Hippocampus
Press in 2009, and has a deal with Bad Moon Books to publish his first novel titled Alice Walks in 2013. His short story “How
Bria Died” has been selected for “The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2011,” published by Prime
Books. Michael Aronovitz lives with his son Max and his wife Kimberly in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.
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