Jessica Breheny

Even after they died they never left the yard. I see them every dusk through my bedroom curtains in the light that filters through the black oak. Mama with horns made by brother Gregory's fingers over her head, and sister Janey smiling in her white shorts, her husband Johnnie laughing. And Papa tall above them all, he doesn't have to talk, his eyes say my name, Caroline, Caroline, come to the window, Caroline, it is late and we are waiting.
When you hear your name called, you must not go. Everybody knows that. So I embroider the flowers in a vase pattern, so I mend the hem of my dress, the favorite flower-yellow one that Mama made and took away to give to sister Janey who now laughs outside in the yard, so I loop the thread the way Mama showed me, in and out like a wave, so I don't look, I stitch.

The birds have stopped singing. I go to the window to tell them to leave me alone, I won't go, they can't steal me away from this house, though they pull and pull the thread of me. It is illegal, I want to yell. I open the window and yell, "Thieves," and I feel a rope at my throat pulling. Caroline, Caroline, you don't belong here, this is not a house for the dead. But I am not, I try to say. The rope pulls. They are stealing. I am stolen. I am falling, they are laughing, sister Janey in her white shorts is laughing. Thieves. Thieves.

Jessica Breheny is the author of Some Mythology. She teaches at San Jose City College and is the fiction editor for Ping Pong, a journal of art and literature published by the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur.

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Photo (front and back are seen above, and detail on main page): found by JB in a thrift-shop book on the occult called Mysteries.

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