After the bruised body recovered, after being shoved
into a car, after the knot in the temple subsided after
a platter of fried chicken smashed into her head, her
mamma took her girls to the Holiday Inn and hid. She
didn’t know what her next move would be; she just
knew she had to move.
Her grandfather brought donut holes and milk for the girls.
Every few minutes, her mamma reminded them not to go
near the window, not to peek out from the curtain, to be
sure the panels were pulled tight. Even the air was taut,
snapped shut. Shut up. She hoped the hotel’s star and
arrow didn’t beckon him, didn’t point out their location.
In the 1970s, the hotel’s slogan changed from “the
nation’s innkeeper” to “the best surprise is no surprise.”
This is her happiest memory: no surprises. Dunkin Donuts
and her grandfather’s khaki jacket, wet from the rain. The
newness of the old hotel room (a room not her own; a
room where she, alone, was not hiding). The coldness of
the milk on her lips. The warmth of the vent under the
curtained window. The green and yellow incandescents
twinkling like stars just above their room.
Kathleen Nalley is the author of the
chapbooks Nesting Doll (winner of the S.C.
Poetry Initiative Prize) and American Sycamore
(Finishing Line Press). Her poetry is forthcoming
or has appeared in Slipstream, Rivet, storySouth,
Night Block, The Bitter Southerner, and Night
Owl, among others. She holds an MFA from
Converse College, teaches literature and writing
at Clemson University, and finds books their
forever homes at M. Judson Booksellers and