THE HUB REVIEW: Saint John the Divine in Iowa
Various folks had mentioned to me that I should check out Lyralen Kaye’s St. John the Divine in Iowa, the latest from Another Country Productions – so I made it to one of the final performances last weekend . And I understood why people had found the script appealing – Kaye has written a gently probing comedy about the inevitable confrontations between current gay lifestyle and traditional religious and moral norms – even when (actually, especially when) the avatars of those norms are eager to embrace diversity, and shed the prejudices that have long defined their roles.
…Kaye does have a few tricks up her dramaturgical sleeve. The intriguing thing about her script, in fact, is the way it calmly turns the tables on audience expectations.
Monday, March 26, 2012
THE BLACK LIST: Run from Fire
This is script is phenomenal. Colleen is a brilliant central character– ultimately utterly believable, with a troubled heart who will always put her clients before her own well being. And this script then puts that kind of a character to the ultimate test. … RUN FROM FIRE should be made. No question. In the sea of ultra-macho Massachusetts police corruption stories, this one, with an utterly watchable and complicated female protagonist who any actress in the mood to win an oscar would jump to play, deserves to stand above them all. Now.
May 17, 2016
KIRKUS REVIEWS: Book Review, PRIEST KID
Returning home for a holiday, a young woman faces stirring parallels between her difficulties with her polyamorous girlfriend and memories of growing up with her liberal Episcopalian priest mother …Heart-wrenching, heartwarming, charming, but most of all fun—a meeting of the most complex of relationships, plagued by the same aches.
May 5, 2017
I took refuge in the beautiful, truly haunting words of this novella. Lyralen Kaye has a gift for making it seem effortless to talk about grace and the role we undertake in the world to embrace what that means. Backstories are blended with asides, while the strong narrative voice propels us forward and manages to set us right within the thought and feeling we were just about to experience. The work is tremendous, complex, and full of soul and heart.
Quote from Katherine Vaz,
award-winning author of Our Lady of the Artichokes
LOST AND FOUND SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL
Lyralen Kaye’s lyrical, charged Paris finds two women (Singleton and Wittman) celebrating their anniversary with an imaginary trip to Paris, and an all-too-real confrontation over commitment and other relationship issues.
by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Boston Contributor
Sunday Jul 1, 2007
POINTS OF VIEW SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL
Lyralen Kaye took a serious look at what happens to a pair of lovers who met at alcohol and drug recovery meetings in “Rescue,” her well written piece
that moved along in real time.
THE KAY BOURNE ARTS REPORT
presented by The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc.
February 11, 2011 – Issue #88
THEY NAMED US MARY
Lyralen Kaye’s THEY NAMED US MARY at Devanaughn Theatre contains what could be the most shattering moment onstage this season: Clare Monaghan, an attractive, intelligent woman… being symbolically beaten and then crucified on her dead father’s body. It is a powerful, primal (even mythic) moment where tears sting your eyes — at least that was my reaction; it was some time before I picked up my pen again to continue scribbling in the dark.
copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi
100 Ways to Write Your Own Eulogy (Dot Com): A web series
A suicidal eulogy writer tries to save her family from financial ruin with the help of her transgender son.
Another Alex: A feature screenplay
An Episcopal priest struggles to balance her newly out daughter’s relationship crisis with the needs of her congregation.
Run from Fire: A feature screenplay
The director of a women’s shelter crosses the line after a local fireman turns the violence he usually reserves for his wife onto her.
Murder by Psychotherapy
Marcia: late thirties, a stockbroker.
Jon: a little younger than Marcia, her boyfriend.
Anita: fifties, their couple’s therapist.
(Marcia and Anita sit in Anita’s psychotherapy office, waiting for Jon, who is two minutes late when the play opens.)
Marcia: I can’t believe he’s late—
Anita: I know, I know—
Marcia: Especially after last night—
Anita: What happened?
Marcia: (Pause.) He said he’d be here. He said…he promised, even if I did freak him out… okay, maybe it’s like that time on Friends when David Schwimmer’s new wife Emily—only they weren’t married yet, that came after—anyhow, Emily came from London at the same time David was going to see her and he had to hear her answering machine through the window—
Anita: Marcia, I think we should start. Tell me about last night.
Marcia: Can’t you see I’m talking about something important here?
Anita: Yes, but—
Marcia: And I am paying you.
Anita: You said something happened last night.
Jon: I was late.
Anita: Well there’s a surprise.
Jon: Sorry. I couldn’t find a parking place.
Anita: Last night, or today?
Marcia: His cell phone battery was dead or he would have called me. That does happen sometimes. Imagine if it had happened in Grand Canyon. Kevin Kline would have been killed by that gang before Danny Glover got there to save him—
Jon: Marcia, no one hurt me. It was okay. We made it through the late thing okay, remember?
Anita: So what happened then?
Jon: (Looks at Marcia.) We fell asleep.
Anita: You fell asleep?
Jon: Right. We fell asleep. It was late, okay, Anita? We made love, and then we fell asleep.
Anita: Both of you?
Jon: No, just me. I got my rocks off and passed out.
Anita: The sarcasm is not necessary, Jon.
Jon: You know, I think you’re making things worse.
Anita: You need to comply with our agreements. You could have set an alarm—
Jon: It’s fucking late at night, okay? So you don’t always think of things ahead of time.
Anita: Obviously that’s something to work on.
Marcia: Just tell her what I did.
Anita: Marcia, we’ve talked about your habit of blaming yourself.
Marcia: I’d like to see you find someone else to pin this one on. God, even Bobby Donnell on The Practice couldn’t get me off—
Jon: Can we get to the fucking point here? Pun intended.
Marcia: I’m sorry, Jon.
Anita: Marcia, are you alright?
My Mother and the Nun
Bernadette: adult thirties, lesbian; never leaves the stage.
Bernadette: teen almost 15 at start of play, 16 at end, Agnes’ eldest daughter, lesbian.
Agnes: early forties, Catholic housewife and Catholic school secretary, mother of seven.
Sister Rita: fifties, Catholic school principal, Agnes’s lover.
(Adult Bernadette opens a hand and a single shaft of light from heaven falls on Teen Bernadette. Underneath teen Bernadette’s saint’s robe she is dressed in culottes and a T-shirt. Teen Bernadette folds her hands as if in prayer, and lifts her face.)
I just want you to know I could be strong. I mean, if you want to test me, I’m ready. You could even treat me like a saint. If you want to cut out my eyes like Saint Lucy…Jesus, you can have my eyes. I’ll give them to you. And I would be faithful like her even with a sword in my heart. I would keep praying to you.
(Lights go to normal. Bernadette speaks loudly, trying to get Agnes to hear.)
My mother says I never stop talking anyhow, so that shouldn’t be a problem. She says if you’re named after a saint, you should act like one. And I’m trying. But Jesus, it’s not easy when you’re named after a saint like Bernadette who’s so quiet and good. If I was named after a louder saint like Joan of Arc…you know, a hero. That would be better. Then I could lead an army of men and show my Mom that girls can do everything they can. No offense to Bernadette, of course. I mean, she’s not that bad a saint. After all, your mother picked her for the vision, right? And it must have been really hard for Bernadette when even her own mom didn’t believe a word she said…about seeing the Lady, I mean, the Virgin Mary. Everyone thought Bernadette was crazy but I would have believed her. I mean, I like Bernadette. I like girls. I like them a lot, Jesus. And that’s the truth. I mean, I love your mother. Hail Mary Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed Art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen. See?
(Entering the living room.)
Bernadette? Bernadette? Come down here, please. I need your help.
(Bernadette begins to speak louder, trying to get her mother to hear.)
Jesus, about my mother. Maybe she wouldn’t sit around staring at nothing all the time if you made her like louder saints. She doesn’t have to not like the quiet ones. She could like both. It’s just, I’m better at dying at the stake or getting eaten by lions or even helping the Indians than being like Bernadette, waiting until the waters come and suffering silently.
(Still in living room.)
Bernadette, I’m calling you.
No offense to anyone, I mean I know those waters Bernadette found in Lourdes helped a lot of people.
(Still in living room.)
(She waits. When Bernadette does not answer, she exits.)
Jesus, please let my mother know that it’s okay to be loud. Not that I’m telling you your job or anything. Sister Theresa in seventh grade said we should pray for your will and to know what it is. But you definitely made me this way. And I should be appreciated for it, right?
(Entering the bedroom.)
Bernadette, what are you doing in my bedroom? I need help with the kids. They’ve been running around like crazy since school let out for the summer—
And make it so my Dad doesn’t go bankrupt ever again.
Are you listening?
Liking girls and being loud in your service forever and ever. Amen. Yes, Mom.
Bernadette Eileen O’Malley, were you on the phone again?
Because you need to change your brother’s diaper. You know what to do if he starts crying?
Burp him. Then sing.
And then you can help your sister make cupcakes. Use the Easy Bake oven, she always likes when you help her with that.
Are you being smart with me?
Because I’m at the end of my rope, here, Bernadette. Your father’s away on business for the third time this month and I don’t even know anyone here and tomorrow I have that job interview at the school and the twins are fighting again and I don’t need you up here on the phone when you’re all I’ve got, understand? Do you understand?
I need you to help me.
I know, Mom.
I need this job. You need for me to get this job if you want to eat.
I know. I was praying. About you.
I hope you remember the teachings of Jesus. “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
I’m trying…to do God’s will.
God wants you to honor your father and your mother.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I know you’re nervous.
I haven’t worked since college. Your father didn’t want me to.
You’ll be great, Mom. And think, it’s just like when you used to help out at the rectory at our old school. It’s just a nun instead of priests, and this time you’ll get money. You should say about the rectory at the interview.
And you should say to Dad it’s like the rectory. When he comes home, I mean. So he won’t get mad.
If he calls when you’re at the interview I’ll say you’re food shopping. He always believes me.
Things will get better, Mom, really—
You don’t know that—
You’ll feel better when you have a job.
I hope you’re right Bernadette.
Adult Bernadette and Teen Bernadette
Mom…it’ll be okay. Trust me.
I don’t even know what I should wear.
Wear the blue seersucker with the navy blazer. It’s not like a business job. You don’t need a suit.
Light, I think. And your gold earrings from Grandma. That’s what you’ll be wearing to work. After you get the job.
I hope it’s not muggy like today.
It won’t be.
That always makes me feel peaked.
I could start dinner if you want.
Just set the table. I have macaroni in the oven.
You should rest before your interview. Why don’t you lay down?
I think I will.
Let me feel your forehead.
That’s alright. Just take care of the kids.
I could stay with you.
Maybe some other time.
Okay. If you’re sure.
And please don’t get them all riled up.
But they like it if you make things into a game.
Never mind. I won’t.
Now go. I need some quiet.
(Bernadette starts to exit.)
(Beat. Teen Bernadette looks at her mother.)
(Bernadette lifts her hands to prayer position and mouths, “Thank you, Jesus.”)
My mother’s sermons smelled like oranges. Lying in my single bed on Sunday mornings, I woke to the scent that seemed to waft up from the clean white pages held in the manila folder she used to carry them to church. A folder she never changed, even then a believer in recycling.
I’d go downstairs to where my father leaned his weight onto an actual orange, squeezing juice for me into a glass measuring cup, but it seemed as if the smell lifted us all —my mother in her car, driving alone to the church, my father and I following in his car, a half hour later.
The smell placed me next to my father in the second row pew where we always sat, my fingers sliding over the shining wood as I tucked my skirt around my bare legs. Each week I refused the joke books and Tic-Tac-Toe my father offered and instead watched my mother on the raised platform of the chancel, her dark curly hair falling over the Episcopal vestments patterned in gold.
And when she ascended to the pulpit, and began to speak, her words opened around me like tiny packages filled with that bright, sweet scent. Standing in the light of the stained glass, my mother explained the world. She lit up with grace—because she possessed it, the real thing, that dignity, that power—and she’d look down once in a while and meet my eyes, letting me know the biblical quotes and poetry, the small jokes and lessons, were just for me.
Or so I thought.
And then it was over. A quick hug from her before she went to the line of waiting parishioners, if I was lucky. If not, I watched them gather around her. The Sermon on the Mount all over again.
I went back home with my father, where he’d watch football or grade papers and I’d go up to my room to read and wait, curled on my single bed, hoping there were no baptisms, no deaths, no marriages, no Bible study classes, to keep her from me.
My mother, the love of my life, whom I waited for, and received like a blessing, late at night after her visits to prisons, to the dying, to the homeless, and then early in the morning before I left for school and she went to her office at the church.
Not like other mothers.
So determined to do right by everyone.
And I can’t even say she forgot me, ever. She squeezed me in after school and before Eucharist, on evenings when she could leave her responsibilities alone. I don’t think she ever forgot to try.
But still, I waited, hours and hours, maybe that whole first part of my life.
Not for my father, who made me dinners, who tucked me in. But for the parent who always had a list of people for whom she needed to be that shining figure of grace.
When I head home from Stanford to visit my mother, the vibration in my body turns up, until my cells sing like notes from a 12-string guitar. Too many notes, really. Longing, hope, the prayer that peace will come, that I will be like her, that I won’t, that she’ll tell me what to do, that she’ll listen, for once, without comments or questions.
I could be the subject of my own psych dissertation. Really. Mommy issues. Give me a break.
But I can’t help tracking the way she looks, from that first moment in the airport terminal. Tonight will be no different: I’ll search for her face, and try to catch her before she sees me. Will her bones hold the suffering she sees every day? Will the skin and muscles pull her face into heaviness? Or will she have been able to set it aside? It’s not whether she’ll light up—she always does—it’s the effort it will cost her. It’s the dimming of her on holidays, or any time the people she serves falter, or need or, cry. Where do I go, wanting home, if she hasn’t found a way to arrive?
I thought about skipping Easter. I’d already skipped Christmas—not a popular decision—and it seemed easier to miss again. The wish and the hope—I wanted to skip them. Because no one with compassion could bring her one more problem to solve, right? And I had nothing to bring her but the mess I was making of my life.
I bought the plane ticket the week before, my finger hovering over the mouse for a long moment before I clicked “Yes.” My father demanded to pay and I let him. As I always did. Because then he could do his Dad thing, puffing up a little, getting protective, getting into the my little girl, I’ll do anything for you.
Annoying and sweet.
I twist my too-thick hair into a braid before I walk off the plane, down the long tunnel of hallway, over the thin carpet and linoleum, under the fluorescent lights, and down to baggage claim, where he waits, hands in his pockets, the familiar blue-button down.
He’s alone. She didn’t even come.
He hugs me, and I inhale the scent of male sweat, of laundry detergent and starch, of the hamburger he no doubt ate on the way.
“Sarah, Sarah, Sarah,” he says. “Too long. Eight months is seven too long.”
He steps back and looks at me. And does what he always does; makes an excuse for my mother.
“Remember Tiff, that girl you used to babysit? Her mom’s got cancer. She could be dying as we speak.”
I stare, without changing expression. He drops his hands from my arms. I turn away.
“Okay.” I go to the slow moving carousel, stare into the metal panels as if I could see myself in their burnish: hippie girl, braided hair, thick eyebrows, a face both intelligent and ultimately Midwest. Give me a makeover and I could do a commercial for household products. That Americana look. Which is a complete deception. Because that girl could never be this angry, clenching and unclenching her fists against the dying, and their endless, terrible needs.
When my bag finally drops down the conveyor and comes within reach, I grab and lift the old canvas duffel bag. And because I’m angry at my sweet, innocent father, I sling it over my shoulder, even though he reaches out to take it for me.
“Where’s the car, Dad?” I ask him.
“Don’t be that way, Sar,” he says. “You know she wanted to be here more than anything.”
I take off my Indian-patterned skirt swirling around my thighs, purple and blue, but then I stop because only he knows where we’re headed. He gives me that look, hurt for my mother, his mouth downturned like a child. A sad, unbearded Santa Claus. I relent and take his arm as we walk to the car, his old/new car, a silver Camry, replacing the last silver Camry. He turns on Sirius—always the tech geek—and starts telling me about his students at the university, about how one invented an app that helps people find clean water, a technological dowsing stick. Then he keeps on right on chatting about the gig he played with his old band mates, middle-aged men shedding their button-downs for ratty T-shirts and cargo shorts, for electric guitar and bass.
I listen to him the way I always do, with barely enough attention to drop the occasional uh-huh, or really? The streetlights fall over his earnest, round face and his bald pate when we pass. Streaks trace the windshield in front of me, but the exterior shines, pristine—the guys at the car wash must have cleaned the outside and missed wiping the inside glass.
Of course. He went to the car wash before picking me up. She probably reminded him to do so. Making everything right for this visit.
We drive past my old school, him reminiscing about the time I’d fallen off the monkey bars, filling us both with images of Band-Aids and Neosporin, stitches, bikes, and birthday parties. I trace my finger over the old scar on my knee. I can see him rushing through the emergency room doors with me in his arms, calling out for a nurse. Not the calmer parent, my father.
Then he passes the church. I look for her car—a Prius, of course, because she makes every choice based on doing no harm, the Hippocratic oath for ministers. It isn’t there. She’s with a parishioner. Or home, waiting for me. But the church, gleaming under the floodlights, with its clean white lines, its utter clarity, feels like her. Familiar.
We pull into the driveway behind the pale green of her car. She beat us home. And then we walk into the house through the back door. The light over the oven glows dim. We walk past the appliances—also new, my Dad has been busy—and into the living room, where my mother sits, sleeping, her graying curls and pale Irish skin shadowed by the lamp light, next to the end table upon which rests her white priest collar. I look at the shape of her mouth, the upturn of her nose, the long, slender waist and legs, and see myself in thirty years.
“Alex,” my Dad says softly. She jumps awake.
Uncanny, the way she can leap into full alertness at the sound of her name.
She stands, moves to me so quickly I feel her arms pulling me in before I can react to the fleeting look of despair that passes as soon as she thinks I see it. She holds me tight, a shock . . . my mother never grabs me like this. And then I think, oh, right, ministering to the dying mother who won’t see her daughter again. What my mother has witnessed, what she has touched, and now me, all messy, screwed up life . . .
I smell coffee on her breath, the icky sweet of a sickroom on her clothes. I feel the usual sinking of guilt.
“Hi, Mom,” I say.
She doesn’t pull away. She’s taller, so my face rests just on her shoulder.
“What is it?” she says softly into my braided hair.
I step back and she lets go immediately.
“You’re tired,” I tell her.
She turns to my father. “Can you make us pancakes, Charlie?”
Pancakes, the answer to every problem. He’ll probably put blueberries in them, or chocolate chips. The three of us, in our dance, the one whose moves never change. Breakfast for dinner. Welcome, crisis, or both.
He takes a short breath, the one I know means he feels left out already. He even hesitates, looking at me. But then he smiles, says, “Sure,” and I’m left alone with my mother, the thing I want, and don’t want, and crave.
“So?” she says. “Ready to come out of the closet?”
“Ha-ha.” I take off my jacket and drop it on the couch.
“So you’re not ready.”
“How can I be in the closet if you’ve already told me I’m gay?”
She smiles, not reacting at all to the resentment in my voice. “Are you gay, Sarah?”
I cross my arms over my chest. “Probably,” I mutter. “I’m not straight, anyhow.”
We look at each other. Crow’s feet have started to deepen around her eyes, as have the lines at the sides of her mouth. They make her look fierce and kind at the same time. As if age can only make what shines out of her more beautiful.
How I hate that I see this. And yet I want to reach her because of it. I want to tell her everything I can’t articulate to myself.
“I might have a girlfriend,” I say. “Or a girl/boyfriend.”
“Gender queer?” she asks.
I glare at her. “You know, if you’re too cool, it’s not cool at all.”
“So, she’s gender queer?”
“Oh, my God, Mom. Yes, she’s gender queer.”
My mother’s dark blue eyes darken further. Whatever she’s seeing isn’t what I want her to see. What I want her to know, what I’m afraid of her knowing, what I’m dying to blurt out except for what she might think of me. She stands in her standard black pants, in her untucked minister’s shirt, in her practical shoes, the silver attachments for her collar pulling the cloth open at her neck. Tall, still pretty in that corn-fed way, her face intelligent and kind as she looks at me.
“Mom?” I blurt. “Did you ever love someone, like, before Dad?”
You Can’t Get There from Here
The first time Erin Donnelly walked into a strip bar, she was looking for her father. Pulling her red-blonde hair out of its ponytail holder to make herself look older, she slipped off her Dad’s motorcycle onto the asphalt of the parking lot with a clatter of the boots he’d bought her for riding. She walked with a swagger, like she knew what she was doing, because the bouncer stood, arms crossed over his chest, watching. Though she’d grown taller than most of the boys in eighth grade, Erin knew she could only pass for sixteen, not twenty-one. The bouncer glared, but she convinced him to let her inside, holding a motorcycle helmet in her hand like a talisman that connected her to her father.
Music pumped through the bar. She stared at the bodies of strippers with their slick skin, the glare of yellow lights playing over their muscles, and it seemed she almost knew them as the harbinger of an adulthood that rushed toward her, relentless. She inhaled with a sound sharp as a whistle, forced herself to stay still. Slowly her eyes adjusted to the red candles that lit the back of the bar. Against the far wall, her father sat alone at a half-moon booth with four empty shot glasses in front of him. She crossed the room, aware of the men watching her, and it seemed, suddenly, she wore a Catholic uniform skirt, saddle shoes, not passing for sixteen at all. She kept her head up, walked right to her father and faced him.
“I thought you were just going to the bathroom,” she said.
He looked at her, the muscles of his wide Irish face slack, blue eyes mapped with red. “I wanted a drink. Erin? You’re fine, Erin. Right? You’re fine.”
She sighed, helped him to his feet, watched him stagger to the door of the bar, wondered what she’d say to him about getting the motorcycle home.
“You drive,” he told her when they got to the bike, his words slurring into each other. “Like I taught you. No one will ever know. Ready?”
She swung a leg over the bike in answer. And then she concentrated on pushing the bike up with his weight behind her, pushing the electric start, turning the gas with her right hand. She leaned into a curve that took them out the parking lot and back onto Route 1. Her slender arms cramped from her grip on the handles as the miles ticked by, up the wide highway back from Massachusetts to Maine. Alert to every shift of her father’s weight, she shivered under her leather jacket, ground her teeth, and gripped harder. Finally, an hour later, she steered onto the gravel of their driveway. Behind her, he listed to the side; for a moment she thought the bike would slide out from under them, that they would land on the cold, stone-covered ground, but then she compensated for his weight and braked. As she switched off the headlight, she listened to him breathing, smelled bourbon and sweat.
“Shit Erin,” he said, digging his heels into the gravel with a harsh rasp. “Did you have to take that turn so hard? I think I’m going to puke.”
“Well don’t do it on me,” Erin answered. “You should be grateful I got you here.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m grateful. Okay, I’m grateful.”
“Because if you ever do this again—”
“You did good,” he told her. “Chip off the old block. I’ll let you drive as much as you want next time. Not just in parking lots, either.”
The porch light came on as he spoke. The front door opened, and her mother stepped outside, white face gleaming in the dark as she peered forward. Her pregnancy swelled under a wool sweater whose ends didn’t quite meet. She must see them, Erin thought, as her mother crossed her arms. Erin froze. Her breath formed clouds as it escaped the plastic visor over her helmet. She watched, her eyes dilating, as the shadow of her mother’s body fell toward them. Behind her mother the house—pristine, Maine clapboard, hardwood floors in large rooms—stretched like a cavern. Erin didn’t need to look to know what she’d see: the rise of her mother’s blonde head, the stiff neck and spine, the way her lips thinned to a white line, the way she stood, a statue, unmoving. Erin wanted to call out, to beg, even just to say, I know I’m too young to drive, but I brought him home to you.
Her father gripped her shoulders from behind; Erin dug her heels in, grabbed the handlebars to keep the bike from falling. He dragged a leg over the bike and managed to stand, swaying. Erin sighed, pulled off her helmet, and walked toward her mother, trying not to look at that white face with its two high spots of color. As she hurried by, her mother placed a hand on Erin’s back, gave her one hard shove. Erin stumbled, fell, and scrambled back to her feet.
“You couldn’t keep him from drinking?” her mother said.
Erin glanced back over her shoulder, still moving toward the first of the steps upstairs. Her father already stood in the doorway behind her. She sighed with relief.
“Nice, Thomas,” her mother said.
Red hair flattened from the helmet, his paunch pushing forward against the bright gold zipper on his leather jacket, Thomas swayed forward. His face changed, lips slackening as they had in the strip bar. His thick fingers reached up and tweaked her mother’s breast.
“Nice, Janet,” he said, and laughed.
Erin stared. Her father, who took her riding, who bought her leather, her father, who drank, but not like this, not when he took her out on the bike, her father who, riding, threw his head back and sang Irish folk songs into the wind…Erin’s boots banged up the steps, away from both of them. She could hear him reeling into the kitchen, and her mother quietly making her way up the stairs.
In her room, Erin rubbed her feet, tried to stretch the painful cramps from her hands and forearms, tried not to think of how her mother would make her pay. Sins of the fathers, she thought, shivering. She pulled on a sweatshirt, long underwear, fleece pants. She stood, then, went to the window and watched clouds file past the moon’s dingy pearl surface. Around her the sounds of the house stilled; she heard her father’s footsteps in the hall, and then, for a while, nothing. She waited, her body tense and cold.
Later—how much later she didn’t know—she heard the sound of whimpering, coming through the wall muffled, but high-pitched. She couldn’t breathe. The sound continued, like the mewing of a feral cat, crying over its wounds. Erin dug her knuckles into her forehead. She knew she should be strong, like a hero, like Jeanne d’Arc, like Harriet Tubman, like King Arthur, someone who couldn’t stand to see a woman wronged. Dad, she thought, just once, like a cry, because he was the one who had taught her strength. She started to shake. She took one footstep, then another. Made it to the center of the room. She knew if she could just keep moving, what she would find when she knocked on her parents’ door. She thought of her mother’s belly, of the child that would be her brother or sister. Her body flattened by night, by sound, she took another step, and then another, heard the whimpers grow louder as she stepped into the hall. She walked quickly to her parents’ bedroom, knowing if she waited any longer, she’d lose her nerve. She knocked. The sound stilled. No one answered.
Erin knocked again, loudly, her knuckles rapping on the thick wood until they hurt. She heard her father’s footsteps approaching. And then the door opened into the rest of her life.