Spring 2007

Clowns

Author
Peggy Newland

Peggy Newland is the recipient of a 2005 New Hampshire Council for the Arts Fellowship for fiction and a fellowship at Southern New Hampshire University's MFA program. Her short stories have appeared in “Conte,” “Chelsea,” “Northern New England Review,” and “Mississippi Review.” She also coauthored “The Adventure of Two Lifetimes” (with Brian Goetz and June Meyer Newland, 2001). Currently she is at work on a collection entitled “Jesus Girl.” She teaches fiction at the University of New Hampshire's Literacy Institute.

When Mama couldn’t have another baby, I knew I could find her one.

“Going out,” I told Mama that first time, but she said nothing as usual, only staring out the kitchen window at the empty field in the back lot. And Daddy, he was never home back then. He knew to stay away until early evening. And then he’d sit in the garage with the radio turned low until Mama screamed for him.

I filled my pockets with stones from the river, just in case, and then I took one of the burlap sacks from the shed because that’s what I’d seen on television shows when you didn’t want the person knowing where he or she was going. I even got my room ready. My bed shoved away from the window so nobody would jump out, chairs piled into a corner, and some stolen jars of peanut butter, jelly, and crackers in my closet. Because you’d never know what the kid would want. And I always wanted peanut butter and jelly. But not on crackers. Bread gets black gunk on it once it gets old so the kid would have to do with crackers until he was ready to be introduced to the family.

Those stones in my pockets, that sack under my tee shirt. And soon you’ll be happy, I wanted to say to Mama as I watched her from the shed. But I didn’t. I just went.

“One, two, three . . . ” I whispered in the park. “Four, five, six.” In the supermarket where Mrs. Johnston told me to go home, stop hanging around by the shopping carts.

“Seven, eight, nine,” I yelled through an abandoned junkyard where the stream ran yellow and purple from the paper company.

And I picked up one of the dead birds. And I brought it back and put it in that closet with the peanut butter and jelly, but then Mama found it a week later and told me no more dead things in the house. Ever. And she stayed in bed for the next two days so I didn’t even go...

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