Iowa Writes

ALYSE BURNSIDE
Woolworth's Day


           Mom has started to stay out late with Carol Anne more often. Lou and I always used to joke that Carol Anne is Ma's girlfriend, because they're practically joined at the hips. Tonight that joke goes sour when Lou and I are planning on playing jacks in the den, but Ma and Carol Anne are already there. Except all we see at first is Carol Anne, because Ma has her face inside Carol Anne's skirt. She is making this real queer noise. Sounds like she is trying to suck the marrow out of a turkey bone. Lou's mouth falls so hard I think for sure he's broke his jaw. I can tell he is trying to scream but can't find enough air to push out of his lungs. I just stand there frozen; it's a lot like seeing an 18-wheeler fly off a bridge. Except that eighteen-wheeler is my own ma, who's blood courses through my own veins, and that bridge is Carol Anne's vulva.

           Mom has started to stay out late with Carol Anne more often. Lou and I always used to joke that Carol Anne is Ma's girlfriend, because they're practically joined at the hips. Tonight that joke goes sour when Lou and I are planning on playing jacks in the den, but Ma and Carol Anne are already there. Except all we see at first is Carol Anne, because Ma has her face inside Carol Anne's skirt. She is making this real queer noise. Sounds like she is trying to suck the marrow out of a turkey bone. Lou's mouth falls so hard I think for sure he's broke his jaw. I can tell he is trying to scream but can't find enough air to push out of his lungs. I just stand there frozen; it's a lot like seeing an 18-wheeler fly off a bridge. Except that eighteen-wheeler is my own ma, who's blood courses through my own veins, and that bridge is Carol Anne's vulva.
           Carol Anne is a prized American homemaker. Her son is the star running back for the Brightonville Beavers, her husband is the minister for the Brightonville Baptist Church, and she is the leader of the Happy Homes Bible Study Group that my mother goes to every Sunday after ten o'clock mass. My mother is a slightly hardened version of Carol Anne. Where Carol Anne's cheeks look soft and beautiful, my mother's naturally look tired and saggy.
           My mother works part time at the make-up counter at Woolworth's.  Every morning I get up and sit on the edge of the tub while she pulls out tube after tube, container after container and covers her face in things with names like "vital radiance" and "coverblend." Now, seeing my mother, knees on the carpet, looking up at us, despite the dew of lady juice and a look of sheer panic on her face, I couldn't help but notice her immaculate face. It must be a Woolworth's day. 
           Now we're just staring at Ma, and she's staring at us. Carol Anne seems to be in a whole different world though, because she hasn't moved her head off the back of our Great Grandma's velveteen chair. Lou turned away quickly and headed for the kitchen. I followed after and shut the damn door. I still wanted to play jacks, but Lou got his bee-bee gun and headed out back to shoot cans. That is what Lou always does when he just can't bear the world. I'd go out there and watch him. Ask him why he's got to shoot those cans and he'd say just as sullen as I'd ever hear him, "I just can't bear the world anymore, Clara."

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


ALYSE BURNSIDE

Alyse Burnside is an undergraduate at the University of Iowa studying creative nonfiction. She is 62 inches tall with brown hair.

This page was first displayed
on March 02, 2013

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