Asylum


All morning I sat waiting for the clock hands to meet at 12. I’d only been at that school a few days but Ms. Dunne seemed like the right person to tell. She was the nicest lady I ever saw. All roly-poly with those flowery dresses and a smile so wide I thought it might break her face in half. She let us pick prizes from her desk drawer when we spelled right. Mine was a pink pig eraser that sat on the end of my pencil. Sometimes when Ms. Dunne leaned over to help me, I knew she wished she could touch me.

I thought about my plan. When the other kids were at lunch, I’d go to her desk where she’d be with her sandwich and her thermos and I’d say, “Can I tell you something?” and she’d say, “Sure, sweetie. Why do you look so sad?” and I’d tell her what my brother did at night: the dark, and the fingers pushing in me, and the hurt. Somehow I’d say it and she’d understand.

I sat real still with my thighs rubbing together, tracing letters on the wide-lined paper, and trying not to look at Earl Mott. He smelled like spit and he was always causing trouble. This time he was standing on his chair, lifting his shirt, doing fake farts under his arm, and making everybody laugh. Ms. Dunne got a roll of duct tape from her desk and told Earl to sit down, but he didn’t. “Sit down,” she said with her teeth clenched, stretching out a streak of silver tape with an awful sound. He sat.

Then Ms. Dunne taped Earl Mott to his chair.

She wrapped both feet all the way up his legs and leaned in like she was going to kiss his private place but she ripped the tape with her teeth instead. She fixed his arms to his waist and turned him into a mummy. Some kids laughed but Ms. Dunne spun around and looked so scary they shut up. She stopped at Earl’s shoulders and whispered something to him. Then he opened his mouth and she covered that with tape, too—all the way around his head and back again.

Later I found Earl crying in the coat closet, scrunched down next to a tower of black erasers. I slid the sliding doors closed behind me. He stopped sniffling and we were quiet, listening to the screams of the others outside at recess. Ms. Dunne came back into the room, sat down and squeezed her fat legs under the prize drawer. I’d put mine back in there. I couldn’t stand its stupid pig grin anymore so I’d split it with the tip of my pencil, pushed up and out of its mouth.

Now a gash of light hit Earl’s face and he stuck out his tongue at me. That troublemaker. That ruiner. I bent down carefully, the burn between my legs as raw as the angry stripe of missing hair around his head. I put my mouth against his ear to say, “I hate you” but it came out, “I hurt you.” I pulled a sharp pencil from my pocket; sure as I was he wouldn’t make a sound. Not that it mattered. No one ever listened to us.   

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