Fall/Winter 2020 Issue

The third week of the last month

Kelly McMahan


It is the third week of the last month and we are at my grandparent’s house. This means that I will stand in their garden and stare at my favorite ceramic tchotchkes. I will list the following in my head:

    1. The band-aid on my knee is gently rubbing itself loose onto my black tights, and I did not bring another one. The wound underneath is only two days old, and occurred when I was crawling up the stairs and slipped on the oak lining at the very top, tumbling down onto my mother’s hatbox.

    1. I slipped a note underneath my sister’s door before we left because she had locked herself in her room and had started to cry. It says that the sequins on my other black tights were becoming undone and started to plow up the dry skin on my shins when I was at school. I did this because I know she is the best at sewing, and she will not fix it unless I make her feel professional.

    1. There is no snow on the ground this year, which makes me feel fortunate because then the grey people in the city will not get wet and neither will my leather boots. When I come back inside, I know that I will secretly slip into the bathroom and wash the mud from the bottom of my boots, otherwise, I won’t be allowed to wear them ever again.

    1. My grandparents’ cat is young and boring. After I hide my boots, I will bring out the feather on a string attached to a plastic rod and play with her. If she does not play with me, I will poke her tummy and her mouth with the rod to see how violently she attacks it, or to get her to hiss at me, or until my grandparents tell me to stop. I think my mother is going to have a baby.

    1. I am a little hungry.

I like to look at my three favorite tchotchkes because they are close together and I like that word. One of them is a mushroom fairy, and I named her Nina. She looks a little like my sister, but less scary, and my sister’s name is Nina. The other tchotchke is just a rock, but it has some stained glass in it that makes it more valuable than the other rocks. It says “All God’s Creatures” which is something only my grandparents say, every once in a while. The last one is my favorite. It is a mother goose but the beak broke off and now it’s just an empty hole and a swan neck with eyes and a bonnet. There are small kitties in a basket underneath the goose’s wings which doesn’t make sense because my brother said that gooses can’t have kitties. When he used to stand in the garden with me, he would joke about the empty hole and say that “someone punched her in the face” and that was really funny.

I stand out here because nobody else does. I hope that my parents think that I’ve gone missing. They will stop sipping their black coffee and look around and say, “Has anyone seen daughter?” And when my brother says “No”, they will politely excuse themselves from the table and my grandparents will get out the nonpareils like when I was a child. Only my mother will put on her coat and they will walk immediately to where I always stand during the third week of the last month. At first, they will not see me because I am an excellent hider.

I will shrink down to the size of the baby in my mother and join Nina on her mushroom, having tea and discussing the patriarchy with her. She is my sister, and she will agree with me that when a woman writes something inexplicable, it is correct to assume that she seeks to question the patriarchy. I tell her that I pretend to write feminism when I cannot find the words to talk about that real, genderless horror: that unutterably terrifying memory of humanness, because womanhood itself is such a comfortably knowable pain and therefore, nobody will think that when you write, you are actually, secretly, a witch. But after I’ve had this conversation with her, I will walk to the holy stone and apologize for only ever going to the Christmas Eve service twice in my life, and for accidentally blowing out my candle because I wanted to see what would happen. Then, I will not make eye-contact with mother goose, because she does not have the ability to frown at me anymore, which must be very difficult for her.

At first, they will not see me because I am an excellent hider, but I can reveal myself whenever I want. I don’t let it get to the point where they get too worried, so eventually, I grow upwards like Alice in Wonderland, my boots becoming too small, my leggings snapping at the seams, my band-aid becoming one with my skin. Now, it’s impossible for them to not see me. I watch my grandparents, standing at the door, smiling weakly and holding chocolate. My mother is holding the hand of my little sister. Nina stares in distress at my broken pants. My brother and father wrinkle their noses at the overgrowth.

“What are you doing standing out here in the cold by yourself? You’re 22 years old for God’s sake.”