And So We Learn

lady birdSunshine dapples the tiny child’s creamy shoulder through knotty yellow hair.

A buzzing thing lands on her knee, folding black and red wings in like origami. She holds out a finger, its ragged nail underlined grey. The thing crawls on.

“Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,” she sings to her tiny passenger, reclaiming her one-eyed doll from the dusty grass. “Your house is on fire and your babies are gone.”

Silent and swift as an owl, she crushes the buzzing thing into dolly’s face. Insect juice and broken carapace leave a cranberry smear on eggshell plastic. Without expression, she studies her art.

The child stands, her once pretty dress a crinkle of creases. She flits through the green velvet lawn, oblivious to the beer cans and fag butts, to the dark doorway. Her vision adjusts to the kitchen gloom.

Across the scraped floor, past the scuffed table legs and odd chairs, her mother stands at the sink, hands gently stroking each other through bubbles. Her thoughts chase her gaze, beyond the grey town, lost in the tomorrow she wishes was there.

“Look,” the girl trills, cradling her doll.

The woman turns. Her cheeks are red, the eyes above ringed in purple. One is closed, the lid a pulpy plum.

“Same as you.”

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