I usually took the bus, but one day my parents said they’d come to get me. We lived far out on a farm, and they were always working. That morning, they said to meet me by the swings, where, after school, they would arrive. I waited, swinging high. After dark, I walked two blocks to my friend’s house, whose parents called someone who called someone else and eventually there were cops. Someone took me to an office where a woman in uniform told me there was an accident, a crash. She took me somewhere else. I didn’t ask any questions. I waited for my mom with her big warm face and wire glasses. I listened for my father’s gruff voice, the sound of his work boots on the hardwood.
I never went to any funeral. Heard nothing on the news and saw nothing in the papers.
The next week, I moved to the next state to live with my Aunt Sue and Uncle Roger, my cousins Ted and Bee. I don’t recall ever having met them.
They let me bring my favorite cat. An albino with the name of Frida.
My first day there, my uncle took a picture. My cousin Ted stood to the left of me, and next to him was his sister Bee, who had the blondest hair. Her eyes were green. She was as tall as me. Ted was two years older, with brown hair, his left hand lodged within his pocket. He stood at angles with his head cocked. I wore long braids that ended at my waistline. My mother taught me how to braid. It soothed me just to touch them.
My new family and I stood in the back yard, the wire fence behind us. Frida lurked around. I wore nothing on my feet. I put my hands between my legs. I didn’t know where else to put them.
My uncle said to smile. He smiled himself. He said we were one now.
Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Oh Baby, Pretty, and
Pistol. Her work has appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies
including NOON, The Nation, Ploughshares, StoryQuarterly, Indiana
Review, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Huffington Post, The Pushcart
Prize and others. She is chief editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal),
associate editor of New World Writing, and an associate professor of
English at SUNY-Buffalo State. Her website is www.kimchinqueee.com.