cover
art & g.narrative
fiction & poetry
cover
art &
g.narrative
fiction & poetry
about
archives
current html | pdf
submissions
vol v, issue 6 < ToC
Poppy's Poppy
by
Douglas Gwilym
previous next

Wolf Girlbeckoning in
the light
Poppy's Poppy
by
Douglas Gwilym
previous

Wolf Girl




next

beckoning in
the light
Poppy's Poppy
by
Douglas Gwilym
previous next

Wolf Girl beckoning in
the light
previous

Wolf Girl




next

beckoning in
the light
Poppy's Poppy  by Douglas Gwilym
Poppy's Poppy
 by Douglas Gwilym
Sometimes I go into Daddy's office when he's out in the garage or still at work and Marjorie and Mama are too busy to want my help. I'm not really supposed to, because of the time I got into Daddy's stamp collection and reorganized it, but I'm older now. I don't touch anything. I just look. Mama always says it's important to remember that you don't look with your hands.

I look, and he looks back, and I don't touch, but sometimes we talk. He whispers, and I listen and try to say something back that he'd understand. Something about how life is now, about how we're all okay, how he shouldn't worry.

I think he worries.

He sat there on top of Daddy's computer desk for a long time before I noticed him. Probably longer than I've been around, since when there was only Marjorie. He's in a frame, but I don't think it bothers him. It's got pretty green and red stones around it, and there's a sparkle like that near his eyes (even if it is black-and-white), so it seems like a good place for him.

He has Daddy's black eyebrows and his eyes look the way Daddy's look when he says, "Elizabeth, this is very serious," and his hair is short but curly, and parted funny to either side, like he doesn't have hair at all but feathers. If I hold my hand over those eyebrows and eyes and the feathers, it's just nose and mouth and chin, and it looks like me, even with the shiny bristle mustache. Like if I opened my mouth and talked in that room by myself, those lips and teeth and tongue would move too, and tell me-and-only-me things reflections in mirrors never do.

He doesn't look like Marjorie at all.

Marjorie says he doesn't look like any of us, that he looks old and dead and flat as a pancake. She says Daddy told her he was Poppy's poppy, that he was my grandpa's grandpa, and when she says the word "was" she says it like she thinks it matters a lot. "He's not a person anymore, Elizabeth," she says. "He lived a long long time ago, and he's gone."

But he's there. He's right there between Daddy's old monitor (so old it doesn't have a touch screen and it's just like a tv) and the stack of books he never finishes. He's there and I can tell he matters.

Yesterday, it rained. Marjorie didn't want to go outside, but the puddles were really good and I asked and asked and you know grandma says "the squeaky wheel," which means "always ask." So Marjorie stood under the porch watching me, making sure I didn't fall into any of the puddles and disappear. She wasn't happy about it, and sniffed a lot and pulled her sweater into her armpits. Finally, she just went in. I knew I wasn't going to fall down any puddles anyway.

Not with Poppy's poppy in the house.

He was the reason when I fell off my training-wheel bike and knocked out my front teeth that it hadn't been worse, that I hadn't died.

I'm not stupid. I know about death. When Grandma goes to Poppy's grave, I know what it means. He's under the ground. Like Ms. Boodles, my turtle. I put her in a shoebox and Daddy played the harmonica and I put the dirt down myself, even if I felt like I wouldn't have wanted Ms. Boodles to see me do it.

Poppy's poppy should have been dead--I knew that, because Daddy said he was born exactly a hundred years before I was--but Poppy's poppy wasn't. He'd sat on tables and desks and even hung on the wall. He watched out for us, the "sons of his sons," he said. Except now there weren't any sons. Just me and Marjorie. And he wanted us to know that that was okay. That he loved us too. That he'd keep us safe until we had sons of our own. That he had ways to keep us safe because he was a swordserer.

I danced in the rain, and I could almost see him peeking around the clouds, keeping me from falling down puddles into Hell or coal mines or whatever.

And then it wasn't raining enough, and the puddles were all splashed out, and I started to think about what if I did fall down a puddle and disappear, and Marjorie wasn't there to call the fire department or whatever. So I went in the back door by the garage, peeling my clothes off and feeling a little sore, and when I came through the door into Daddy's office, she was standing there, right there, holding Poppy's poppy and looking at him like he was giving her that look, like he was saying something to her she didn't want to miss.

Which was wrong, and made me feel like somebody was poking me in my belly with a stick.

"Elizabeth," Marjorie was saying, "have you been touching this? You mustn't touch it."

I said no. Because you have to say no to Marjorie when she says things like that.

"Don't be such a liar. I can see your fingerprints on it." She didn't say "him," she said "it," but I knew what she was thinking. I knew what she wanted. She wanted to take him away from me. She wanted him for herself.

I got crafty. I told her okay, that I wouldn't, but that she shouldn't touch him either, because he was important to Daddy. That she should put Poppy's poppy down. "Now," I said.

She made a squished bug face and slapped at me with the hand she wasn't using to hold Poppy's poppy away from me.

The door was still open behind us. And the rain started to pick up again. I thought of the puddles, and then I thought of Poppy's poppy. He'd always protected us. I had to protect him.

I planted my feet and I ducked under her arm and I grabbed him with both hands. The glass clanked against the frame in my hands. Marjorie slid on the water we'd tracked on the floor and fell out onto the cement, out onto where I lost my teeth. She fell backward and made an ugly sound.

We had to go to the hospital. Poppy's poppy says it's okay. I'm hugging him in his frame and nobody's telling me I shouldn't. Mama and Daddy are crying, but Poppy's poppy says it will be okay. He's always taken care of us.

Marjorie was never going to have sons. Not like my sons, he says. Of course not.

Marjorie doesn't look like him at all.

(previous)
Wolf Girl