Monday, December 10, 2012

Alaska Shorts: Queen for a Day, by Monica Devine

Author Monica Devine

Your mother’s not coming.  Jesus Christ, my child just died and I can’t be entertaining your mother. The weight and warmth of my blissful motherhood blood turned ice cold with the thought of her saying- it’ll be fine dear, in time -with her youthful 72 year old pink-lined lips and eyes all a sparkle.

The thought of slogging through a funeral full of other people’s tears made my stomach turn. I can’t cater to happy people right now. Good for her replacing a husband in less than a year. I can’t get a new child. I’m glad she’s happy.

I pulled an afghan over my shoulders and sank down into the couch. A slam of wind and another rush of rain rummaged through the metal gutters like trapped animals.

Kyra liked the rain. She used to sit on the front porch and watch lightening storms. She caught all things quick:  an arcing shooting star, a coyote trace across a darkened roadbed, a fleeting facial expression she couldn’t name.  Mom, did you see that girl’s hair, she’d say as the object of her desire melted into the crowd. 

Prayer never brought me closer to the divine. Kyra and me, we were part of the divine already, just living every day. We participated.

From day one to eleven years and 17 days, we were divine. There was holy, sweet smelling divine when her fisted little hands grabbed hold of my hair as I diapered her. There was dopey sugar coated divine when I left her birthday cake in the oven too long. Geez, mom, how could you burn it. After the party, I apologized, and we stayed up all night eating popcorn and drawing pictures of hearts and horses.
There was the dirty hollowed out divine when I threw a glass of wine at her father after he confessed that his massage “therapy” had turned into sex. He said female client, I said another woman. He said touched her inappropriately, I said brought her to orgasm. Good ol’ semantics; I was never good at hurling gracefully veiled insults, but inanimate objects do me just fine.
We’re divine by nature, aren’t we?

When I forgot to set the alarm and she grew tired of being late for school, Kyra saved her allowance and bought her own alarm.

Uh huh. One divine moment after another.

One time after infinite begging, I let her cut my hair, just like at the beauty salon. I like to think I trusted her; hell it’s only hair…it’ll grow back.

After the cut, she pranced around the house like she was queen for a day, like she could do anything.

“I want to be a hairdresser when I grow up,” she said.

I said, “…teacher or nurse”, and she said, “…no, Mom, I’m good at this.”

God, she was brilliant.  

And now he’s calling me about his mother coming. She wants to be here for us. But I can’t take her happiness …not now.

Whatever she touches turns to gold; she simply wills it. When rain beats in slants on the windows, she finds a hidden rainbow. Makes lemonade out of lemons with exaggerated exuberance. As if cherished sons don’t die everyday in a worthless war half way around the world (we don’t talk about it). As if a third of the world’s children aren’t dying of starvation (what we don’t see doesn’t exist).

Keep the cotton candy spinning and look the other way. Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with it. To mention is to dwell. To acknowledge is to dwell. To empathize is to dwell. Smile instead. Have a nice day!  

Where is the divine right now?  Is it in this hard skull holding in my sloshing brain? In my heaving gut and unshaved legs? Is my skin divine if only he touches it, without the stain of another woman’s scent?

Losing him was nothing; he’s one of many possibilities.

But Kyra was the shard that completed me, a wedge of love that penetrated my core; made me whole. It’s that deep, and infinitely more. 

With all this rain we’re having, clods of dirt drop loose and my bones are shaking. Little by little I’m eroding.

I can’t attune myself to others right now; tell her to stay home. 

Monica Devine is an award-winning author of children’s books, poetry, and prose. She took first place in the 2012 Alaska Statewide Poetry Contest, and her children’s book, Iditarod, was a nominee for the celebrated Golden Kite Award. Her photo essays can be viewed on her blog Between Two Rivers at

If you're an Alaska author or you've written about Alaska, submit your creative work, either in full or an excerpt 800 words or less, for publication in our 49 Writers Alaska Shorts series.

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