Ever wish we’d picked another? You whisper at Mary’s party. Our daughter spits on her candles, dives into an ice cream cake with both fists. You bind her in a blanket while I cut cake for children too curious to eat. And isn’t that girl adopted, with the blond braid and black eyes? I place a paper plate before her, chance recipient of Mary’s blue frosting rose. Her irises wick smoke toward the ceiling, the trail twining balloon tales.
This year my fear is lighter but expanding. (I am lighter.) You said, we should have bought a fighting fish. (We’re expanding.) I said, I’m scared.
Mary, our dear birthday girl, ten years ago today you split a fourteen year old open in the back of a cab. After the party you’ll scream I want my real mother while we catch in your throat. But it’s love that makes the world thick and strange, viscous and slow as the mucous-rich blood you once wore like a robe.
Wendy Oleson’s recent flash appears in Quarterly West and is forthcoming in the Cossack Review and Copper Nickel. She teaches in the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.