By Melissa Knox. Mom is holding the drawings of big-boobed girls that I did with my friend Danielle. She must have gone in my room. Lately, when I get hit in the chest with a baseball, it hurts. Mom and I are sitting in the kitchen of a rented house on India Street in Nantucket. As I am finishing dinner, she explains that her therapist asked her to ask me something. Her eyes widen in shock, as if someone had just cursed or farted or both.
I know I sang—. Some of the meaner giants would sharpen the stone knife for me. My mother sews in my nametags and then drifts into painting little green trees up the legs of the kitchen sink. She needs to talk to my father—right now—as the ice clinks in his fourth gin-and-tonic. These clothes have to fit me for a long time. I could maybe escape during summer camp or right before my mother picks me up.
Maybe I can get into an orphanage. Anything could happen during those eight weeks. By the end of summer camp, some mysterious transformation, fueled entirely by my wishes, might occur. A whole eight weeks! Yes, anything can happen. Near the end of our drive to camp, Mom and I stop at a roadside restaurant for dinner, and I dive into my chicken with gravy and wild rice, eating so quickly I hardly taste it. I can hardly breathe. I wave at Mom, sitting opposite me, because I can barely talk.
The skin on my hands, my arms, is bright red and itchy. Quarter-sized hives are popping out all over me. I am scratching like an ape. Oh dearie, dearie me. Your throat does sound a bit scratchy. Would you like a little dessert? Or maybe some juice?
Wonder if I have enough gas. The car edges forward reluctantly. We could stop for a minute. Oh, okay. If you really think so. She points out another deer frolicking through the birch trees. Is there a doctor around here or a hospital? By the time we get to the small local hospital, I can no longer see or walk. I lose consciousness. I wake on a gurney, in my hand an envelope of red capsules with stripes that remind me of candy canes and Christmas.
My mother informs me that I have been given a large shot of adrenaline. I have been unconscious for some time, hours, apparently, and she has on her face the look of a child whose parents arrived two hours late to pick her up. She reads to me and provides stale sandwiches. I relish the ability to breathe, but am shaky whenever I get out of bed. Not to mention learning to cook, something I will do by watching my father, whose love of Southern fried anything dominates our cuisine at home.
A few pounds thinner, I join my tent-mates three days after camp starts. I enjoy the piney aromas and the quiet. The counselor, blond, plump and sweet, introduces the girls, suggesting we all tell what our Daddies do. Dad pours the gin into his water glass. The shy girl invites me to play cards, the redhead says she loves cheese fondue. A week after I arrive, the summer camp director sends my mother a letter about your very articulate young lady.
My tent mates are sick of hearing about how much blood drips from his teeth. She means that I like to pull the legs off Daddy Long Legs. I like to pour salt on a slug. I talk non-stop at the camp dinner table, where no one ever slaps me and no one has ever been slapped. When camp is over in late August, my mother comes by herself to pick me up. She wonders if my fetish for the bizarre may be a substitute for carrying on a relationship in which she feels uneasy, in other words that it is a shell to avoid letting other people know that she does not have as much self-confidence as she often shows on the surface.
I laugh as my mother, casting me a doleful look, reads this out loud. If I could fool my counselor, then I could fool other people too, and I almost feel self-confident. She seems astonished. Sex is indeed one of my favorite topics and I could not seem to stop looking for it everywhere.
At camp, I told the other girls about the movie version of To Sir With Love, which none of them had seen. Sanitary napkin! Which has something to do with sex! And I kept harping on this moment with my bemused campmates. At camp I felt like an anthropologist visiting an unknown tribe I might like to join, and nothing reassured me more than the sight of other campers laughing at my antics.
Stories of Catherine the Great getting crushed by a horse being lowered, for erotic purposes, by crane, fascinate me. I tell them. I pretend to be a vampire. I think this is very funny. I say it again and again. Neither vampires nor sex stories blot out my most unforgettable moment, the one I keep trying to exfoliate with the energy of a dragon shedding his skin, but which follows me everywhere.
She asks her mother to find her a black lace negligee and fold it carefully into her suitcase. Mom forgets and just packs a pink flannel nightgown. On the wedding night the groom gets shy, saying he will undress in the bathroom and that the bride should not look. All pink and wrinkly!
He dances with us. He points a finger toward my brother. He sits in front of us and his face is all red, his eyes glassy. He burps long and loud, and we laugh. He shuts and locks the door, because Mom is on the other side of it. We laugh. This is a game, like keep-away. The bathroom has white and black diamond-shaped tiles and the lights are very bright.
He pulls out his penis the way a fireman unrolls a hose—he just hand-over-hands it and it keeps on rolling out, more and more, until I almost wonder if that thing will hit the wall.
Then it rears its head like an angry red giant. The room disappears. The thing seems as thick as my head. A stream of urine loud as a cataract shoots into the toilet, enough to drown all New York. You could go over the falls in a barrel in that stuff.
We are so agog with these previously hidden talents that only after a moment do I realize that the entire time we are in the bathroom, Mom is pounding on the door and yelling. I think we step over her and run to our rooms. I awake with a lurch, panting and sweating, every night. When I started summer camp, I believed that because I was in a new place, surrounded by happy people, people not in my family, I would be allowed to forget everything that went before. When Lucy visits the faun in Narnia, he wears a red scarf over his handsome, hairy chest, in the Pauline Baynes illustrations.
His furred hindquarters conceal his tumescence—for what else is Mr. The music makes Lucy feel like crying and laughing and dancing and going to sleep. He bursts into tears. When my father came to my room at night, and he sobbed and stroked me, I pretended to be asleep.
I felt like laughing and crying and dancing and sleeping all at once, and I did not want the tune to stop. When he wept, he loved me.