“Maria, at the Kitchen Table” by Tyler Dempsey


Detectives. Police. 1:45 a.m. husband yelled her name, wake up. Deaf. She kind of hears.


Greased hair, husband rolls pamphlet reflexively grabbed when detective showed photo. Rolls it. “Poor girls,” thinks Maria.


Age six, Maria resembled Christmas present in orange and white blanket. “Her salve,” grandpa called deafness. Orange, white blanket. Soft, enormous sunset and landscapes running hill-like.


Shaken arm. “Is that right?” Husband nodding. Detective’s lips. “That right, ma’am?” Sweat splits husband’s eyes. Blue, now black. She nods. German Shepherds pull police through on ropes. I should make a pot of coffee, thinks Maria.


Thinks Maria, “Salve.”


Maria, at the kitchen table. Tall detective whispers clean-shaven detective glances husband rolling pamphlet, dripping sweat. ConversationsMaria stops reading lips. Teeters on memory. “What’s her problem?” Gestures at Maria, palm flat.


Housekeeping, motels. Nights. People go in, out. In, out. Laundry bags feeding hopes, dreams, and sins accompany Maria on metro. 64th St. Laundromat. T.V.’s loop soaps, magazines displaying large-breasted women. Boss dodging expenses. Once, she found a hundred dollar bill on a bed, folded smaller, smaller. Size of a Tic-Tac.


Maria, at the kitchen table detective takes stance standing opposite husband raises photo mouths, “Surveillance videos show a ’57, station wagon, turquoise, white. Around where they found the body. Not a lot of white, turquoise, ‘57 station wagons in Bloomington. We believe it’s your station wagon, Mr. Allens.” Aunt Griselda’s German Shepherd Max. Maria’s little kid hands, little, exploring Max’s coat. Dandelion-fur erupting sunlit air. Detective nods, lifts coffee mug picture of Goofy she got at Disney Land.


Father opened mare’s neck. Dry rip. Barn burst smell of hay and life.  Maria on knees, dress to face sobbing. Eight. “Old enough,” her father assured Maria’s mother, Maria. Next year divorced. Feed too expensive. House too expensive. Car, expensive.


Maria, at the kitchen table, detectives levitate further over table toward husband saying, “We picked them up. 8 o’clock, Sunday.” Maria thinks, “We?” “Said we’s goin the liquor store, they’d like to come along.” “We had to, save the foal,” father said. Foal-shaky-legs. Afterbirth slick. Hay creased Maria’s face. Crimson cheeks. Barn wood on back. “What happened next?” Detectives parallel floor three feet above kitchen table, hold notebooks.


Maria’s head in horse’s blood. “Renewed by Holy Spirit.” Let me show you something. Turquoise, white. Chrysanthemums. After bowling ice cream in station wagon kid on bike Maria screaming. Clunk, scrape, bike metal. Hand to mouth looking side mirror kid not moving bike tire spinning. Lateral, warble, newly bent bike tire spinning. Maria thought, “To save the foal.” Husband licked ice cream veining down arm.


Maria, at the kitchen table. Scene with detectives, kitchen table she envisioned before. Different reasons. Baby’s head in horse’s blood. Maria. Detectives quiet, once ceased levitating, and the clean-shaven one nods at the other one and they’re nodding. And they’re doing that now. In the kitchen. Red hat spinning on hood of station wagon. Beautiful, little kid hat. Turquoise. White.


Maria . . .


Tyler Dempsey was a finalist in Glimmer Train and New Millennium Writings competitions, has work forthcoming in Soft Cartel Magazine and appears in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Five:2:One Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Gone Lawn, amongst others. Find him on Twitter @tylercdempsey or at: http://tylerdempseywriting.com

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