I wrote a story this morning called "Mixie Cut." It is the third work of fiction in full I have completed in 2020. I don't think I have ever written anything more beautiful. I will put up an except.
She sat in the sandbox with the child who was not hers. She wasn’t sure if sandboxes were very common anymore. They seemed outmoded, despite sand being primordial. Or likely primordial. Probably only the sea was older, and there was sand at the bottom of the sea.
She was happy to help. Not happy—you wouldn’t be happy in the situation. You’d be gruesome if you were. She brought food at first and cleaned. She thought of bringing flowers but they would have been in bad taste. She sat with her friend Marjorie at the end of Marjorie’s bed. Shook her head that Brad had gone back to work so soon. Shook it to shake it, even when they were not talking about him. They were not talking about him much. They didn’t talk much.
“You can’t just lay here forever,” she said, immediately conscious of the line she had set up in response. She put her ears to her head so as not to hear it. Marjorie lay with her back to her. She heard it anyway. Some lines you hear even if you don’t hear them.
She always went up to say goodbye, after she had done what she could elsewhere in the house. When she knew Brad would be home. She viewed her going and his coming as a hand-off. Like in football. The passing of the rock. She dated Brad in high school. None of them had moved very far. Geographically. She felt Marjorie had moved far away from her now, even though they sat on the bed a lot and she still lived 4.8 kilometers away. You could even call it a proper road race—of the short variety.
She intended each night to leave just before Brad got home. In high school when she was pregnant, Brad said, “The good thing about an abortion is you can put it on your credit card.” It was a bad joke. He was scared. He didn’t have a credit card. She was more scared. She went alone and had it taken care of. They dated for a while after but she did not want to be touched, especially because she saw a kid she did not have, and the kid was so smart, but it was a wiseass, because the kid would say, “You could have made this work, it is not nearly so hard as some people think, which you learn when you do it, but now you can’t.” So she could not stay with Brad.
“Is there anything else I can do?” she would ask before she left. Most of her questions resulted in her isolating one word as she heard herself say the question and think that it was wrong. In this case that word was “else.” There was normally no answer, but now Marjorie said, “Will you check on Danielle?” which she understood to mean that she should sit with her and try to talk, or, rather, listen.
The girl was seven. She was probably like her at seven. Artistic. She had turned the sandbox into a sculpture. It looked like a face without the features, but you knew it was a face. Not an inchoate face. A face that was meant not to have features but convey to you what it was all the same. The hair was short, like Danielle’s sister’s had been. Even if she had not read about how children reach out, she would have thought this one probably was, which made it okay to say something. “Is that Trish with her Pixie cut?”
The child was studious and her head tilted like some dogs do when they look up at you and you think maybe you should reframe the question. “That’s a picture you made of Trish?”
“She didn’t call it a Pixie cut,” the child replied.
“Oh. I am not in the loop. Of hipness.” She winced. Tried again. “Of the youth.” Winced further. “What did she like to call it?”
“She called it a Mixie cut because she liked to mix it up. She would say that.”
“She was very funny.”
“Do you think she was astute?”
“That is an interesting word.”
“My mother said that Trish was astute.”
“Your mother is very astute herself. And yes, Trish was certainly as well.”
The sand looked wet but the wind still seemed to blow particles. She hadn’t noticed until then how cool it had been getting. Her father used to compare summer to honey, and the start of fall was when the lid had been put back on a jar but you could still smell the hardened bumps at the top on the outside.
“The air smells nice,” the girl said.
“Yes,” she agreed.