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Florence Nightingirl

She keeps them in a pizza box under the bed (their ward); footless and naked, wrapped in toilet paper like mummies - some with dinosaur band aids over punctured, noseless faces.

Each week, since the separation, when he visits, the girl's father presents her with a new Barbie, one hand behind his back clutching it, the other embracing her in greeting. She undresses the latest: Jewel Princess Barbie, leaving on only two tiny red pumps; brushes back wiry hair in reassuring strokes. "Not yet," she says to the cocooned bevy, anxious to be introduced. "Please...please," she speaks for them in a high, spirited voice.

In the next room she hears her parents feud - her mother say: "Oh, but you've got money for that slut you're seeing!" She's heard the word before. Her mother uses lots of words she doesn't understand. Like the other day when her mother found Ballerina Barbie by the couch—irredeemably chewed by their Yellow Lab, Susie. "Looks more like Texas Chainsaw Massacre Barbie," her mother quipped, handing it, saliva-basted, to her daughter.

When the girl asked, "What's that," her mother said, "Never mind, honey. Mommy's just being silly."

"Get a life!" she hears her father holler now. A door slams, and something fragile follows it across the room and shatters.

The girl rises with her latest charge and goes to the window. It's sunny and the yard is dizzy with bees. Susie is out there digging up the gladiolas, then stops, pricks up her ears - turns as the window slowly creaks open.

Story by:

Robert Scotellaro

submitted at 7:12am

18 May 2009