Paula Whyman – You May See a Stranger
I’m daydreaming about a white box truck.
And look, it has just pulled into my driveway. It could be the very one they talked about last night on the news, the one we’re supposed to watch out for and worry about. Except, on the side of this truck there’s a picture of a horse, a bucking bronco, and in brown lettering it says Mustang Fence. The horse reminds me of my son’s pajama. My son, who’s at school now, who for the first time didn’t refuse to get out of the car when I pulled up to the front of the carpool line, who didn’t complain when his sister reached over, as always without my permission, and unbuckled his seatbelt for him too soon, before I’d even stopped at the curb. If she could, she’d shove him out the door while the car’s still moving, so eager is she to have him utterly out of her life. I do understand this impulse, as I had a sister once whom I sometimes thought to shove to her death, and then, by the time I no longer thought of doing it, she went and did herself in with no help from me at all. Which doesn’t let me off the hook. Funny how that works, that the dead keep the living in ways both good and bad.
But as for the boy, to my amazement, this morning he didn’t protest or whine, he simply got out of the car when he was supposed to, said “Bye,” as if he’s been doing it for twenty years, like a man being dropped off for his daily ride on the commuter train into the city. He waved, he was gone. His sister slid across the seat and followed. And I came home to meet a man who’ll build a fence around our yard, which I’m telling myself will keep the bad guys out and keep my children in.
–Excerpt from “Bad Side In,” You May See A Stranger (Triquarterly Books)
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