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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 3: May 2020
Micro-Fiction: 487 words
By Roberta Beary

Little Women

 

My husband says my sister’s life is a mess.

My sister spent Christmas in the hospital, after a truck hit her old Chevy.

Now she’s in a wheelchair.

When she’s been drinking, like today, she says she feels fine.

She says, Life is good.

When I told my husband my sister may have a drinking problem, he said, May have?

I want to tell him about Little Women so he’d understand.

But sometimes it’s not worth it.

:::

If I told him, I’d start with the closet.

My sister has a big walk-in closet in her bedroom.

On the middle shelf are Little Women dolls, each in a polka-dot dress and white apron.

Staring wide-eyed in their blue and white box with cellophane top.

Dolls like Mother gave me, starting when I turned eight.

By 12 I had the whole set.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

My sister’s one of those women that never cuts off a price tag, if whatever she bought cost a mint. Which is how I know that her dolls did. Cost a mint.

When I saw them on the shelf I got this empty feeling. Like when my toy poodle ran away on the 4th of July. Charlie. I cried for a month.

My sister was gone by then.

Why did you buy them? I never even saved mine.

I looked at my sister’s pink sheepskin rug and took off my flats. Ran my toes over the soft fur. Crossed my legs and did my deep breathing, on the sly. My heart was going like crazy. I prayed I wouldn’t pass out.

I threw out my dolls after Schoolyard Gerry taught me to french kiss. If you hadn’t eloped you would’ve known that.

She said, Huh.

She said, Well, I’ll be damned.

She said, For real?

When I nodded she went quiet, wheeled her way to the kitchen, and pulled a bottle from the rack. I wanted to roll up that little pink rug and put it in the trunk of my car. But sometimes it’s not worth it.

You know I got to leave now, he’s waiting on his dinner.

:::

After I back into the driveway, easy as pie, my husband comes out. I know he’s been watching to see how many manoeuvres it’d take. He still doesn’t know how to back in. Last time he tried, he hit the wall. I pick up the paper from the stoop. He raises one eyebrow, like James Bond.

He says, Well, how was it?

I think about my sister sitting in her walk-in closet. Her wheelchair.

Looking at Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Asleep in their tiny coffins.

The white price tags tied around their necks.

I want to tell my husband.

But I zip my lips. Nothing about the closet, nothing about dolls, hers or mine. Heck, I’ve never even told him about Charlie.

Sometimes it’s not worth it.

Roberta Beary’s
Issue 3, May 2020

second collection of short poems, Carousel, is co-winner of the Snapshot Press 2019 book award contest. Her first short-form collection, The Unworn Necklace, received a finalist book award from the Poetry Society of America. Her collection of prose poetry, Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015), was named a National Poetry Month Best Pick by Washington Independent Review of Books.

Long-time haibun editor of Modern Haiku, Ms. Beary is also co-editor of Wishbone Moon: An Anthology of Haiku by Women (Jacar Press, 2018), and she recently judged the Sable Books Haiku Contest for Women Book Award.

Her writing has appeared in Rattle, KYSO Flash, 100 Word Story, Cultural Weekly, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and is also featured in A Companion to Poetic Genre (John Wiley & Sons, 2011) and Haiku In English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton, 2013).

Ms. Beary lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, Frank Stella, and tweets her photoku and micro-poetry on Twitter [at] shortpoemz.

Author’s website: https://robertabeary.com/news/

You can also find her on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/robertabeary/

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The art of brevity, an interview by Ciara Moynihan in Mayo News (22 January 2019)

Lunch Break, a haibun by Beary in Rattle (#56, Summer 2017), Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness; includes audio (17 July 2017)

Barfly, one of more than a dozen of Beary’s works which appear in KYSO Flash; for a list of others, see the KF Index of Contributors.

 
 
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