It's not the only thing she possesses, this crust of bread
in her hand, but it feels as if it is. The girl holds it like
an apple or a snow globe needing to be shaken, like a magic
cue ball filled with inky black liquid ready to grant blunt
answers to your questions. She scrunches the bread and watches
crumbs sprinkle her shoes with a dozen tawny-colored freckles.
Her mother asks what's wrong with her, is she nuts? Her mother
thinks she is, and her mother might be right.
The girl is dizzy and confused most of the time.
She has no name or she takes the name they give her if they
want her to have one. She has been Amy, Mandy, Little Sue, Big
Red, Tokyo Rose, Momma, Mrs. Schweitzer, Beth.
The girl has exactly two mix-and-match outfits, but she has
clean underwear: white with red lace and different sized lady
bugs. She hates that pair because the insects sometimes come
to life and crawl around her private parts and when she
scratches she gets screamed at and made fun of or called
Yes, now that she thinks of it, the girl is certain that she
The girl is thin, bony. She can count her ribs without
stretching or sucking in her belly because she has no belly.
"All this talk of food is overrated," her mother
says. "Same as television. Same as Obama."
The girl's favorite part about this is watching the cars go
by, imagining what the automobiles smell like inside, what the
people are discussing and thinking, the song on the radio, or
maybe it's a smart person talking about wars overseas. The
inside of a car is like being inside a hut, a tent. You can
tell secrets there, or ghost stories. You can snore if you
want to because it'll only be the bears that hear.
Usually there are three men a day. On occasion there are three
at once. One time there was a line stretching around the alley
and the girl did what she had to do but while she did it she
looked at the column of paying customers, their faces eaten
away by shame, their steaming eyes and sweaty mouths the only
signal they were alive. The scene reminded her of a photograph
she'd seen from olden days when it was in fashion to dress
formal and wear hats, and in the picture she recalls that most
of these men were looking for employment but some were merely
seeking soup, sustenance, something warm to fill their
She is slender and skinny. She wonders: If I can get thin
enough, can I be soup?
There is no business to be had on Martin Luther King Jr. Day,
so they go to see her mother's boyfriend, James who works at
the store called Video & Pawn. She has to wait outside.
She doesn't mind. It stinks of fresh vomit and baby diapers
outside but it smells worse in Video & Pawn.
The girl looks at the sky. It's as gray as a donkey, yet one
disintegrating cloud limps along. She fixes it in her mind,
adds a few appendages, and then the cloud becomes a kangaroo
and it bounces away from here, on its way back to Australia or
Inside the store a television show plays. The actress is her
age only she's beautiful, so gorgeous and clean, with
berry-colored lipstick and shimmering skin. But the actress
wags her finger the same way the girl's mother does. The
actress's mouth moves so quickly the girl thinks it must be a
trick or fast motion. The actress has had it. She's fed up.
Her boyfriend isn't good enough for her. She deserves better.
The girl hears all this or imagines she does.
The actress slaps the boy and shoves him down on the couch and
runs out the door, slamming it so hard the screen shakes.
The boy actor starts to cry.
The girl has never seen a male person cry.
She leans forward, and even though the glass is smudged and
dusted with dirt and grime, she closes her eyes and presses
her lips to the glass. She holds steady and strong. She's been
kissed before, but she's never kissed.