Squall in Book of Visions

  • Feb. 7, 2023, 8:06 a.m.
  • |
  • Public

it was storming that day
none of us kids would stay
on our cots for nap time
the woman wanted us to sleep

she smelled like cigarettes and
sounded like a creaky door
when she spoke

she and her old man were arguing
- he wanted to let us get up,
but she wanted her smoke break
she went back and forth between
berating him in loud whispers
and shouting for us to lie back down

he had a long, bushy grey beard
and an angry voice even when he
was attempting to sound kind
he wore short-sleeved button-down
shirts that accentuated his pot belly
the shirts were always stained with
food or sweat

I dozed off and stirred at a deafening peal
of thunder - the television was on
casting a grey flicker over
the room
kids were sitting indian-style
silently watching Popeye,
mouths agape
the room smelled like morning breath
and extinguished cigarettes

when I stood up from the cot
the woman smiled at me
and asked me if I had a good nap
she must have gotten her
smoke break

I stared at her and
scratched my stomach
she exhaled a whispery laugh
sending an invisible cloud of
nicotine into my face and said
something about me still being

the situation at that moment was
unfamiliar to me
the woman rarely smiled
they never turned the television
on for us
the other kids made me more
uncomfortable than usual

the television beeped and words
crawled along the bottom of the
screen. the man and woman seemed
keenly interested in these words

I did not want to watch Popeye
so I pulled a large basket of
blocks and toy vehicles
off a low shelf

the sound caused a few of the children
to turn their heads and look at me
a few looked angry or annoyed
but then turned back to the
cartoon program

the woman tried to convince me
to join the other kids, but I
continued to play with the toys
hoping that she might forget

she tried again to convince me to
go and watch Popeye

I continued to ignore her so
she got up and sat on the floor
next to me, emitting the familiar
sigh-groan that grandparents make
when they move in ways they
aren’t used to moving

sitting close to me
she watched me play
her breaths were raspy
and labored
the rain drummed steadily
on the flat, tar roof

the unnatural fluorescent lights
flickered, then buzzed to life,
indicating snack time
the woman helped me return
the toy cars to the basket

she prompted me to put the basket
back on the shelf

when I came to the table
my tiny, paper bowl was filled
with animal crackers

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