By Iris Appelquist
A rusted tricycle, red at one time, stood sentry in the yard against the ancient oak, its front tire skewed dramatically to the left; exactly where she’d left it on that sticky August afternoon…even now, years later. Her mother forbade anyone’s moving it, disposing of it, touching it at all. Plastic tassels hanging, brittle, from the ends of the handlebars — once gummy colors of blue and white and yellow now all nearing the same shade of weather. She more often stood one-footed on the back platform and pushed the thing around in the lawn, difficult as it was to pedal through the grass and odd, knobby roots. She never cried when she fell, a trait at which her mother would privately beam with pride.
She wasn’t a good girl, and she wasn’t a bad one. To say she was precocious would not be completely honest; Lolita was precocious, after all. She was a miniature intellectual, innocent of her veritable power and frank without forgetting to consider others’ feelings. She was almost 8 years old, “More than seven but less than eight,” as she’d said many times…she was 83 days away from her eighth birthday, when on a sticky August afternoon, her mother took a seat on the front stoop and did not rise for seventeen hours; her mother’s eyes fixed on the front tire of the bright red tricycle, slanted violently to one side against the imposition of the old oak in her front yard.
Through an entire night and into the next morning, her mother sat on the stoop. Having run out of cigarettes really rather quickly, she took to kneading her own hands; to this day, she swears she’d given herself arthritis doing that and no one argues the point with her. It had been a day uncanny in its normalcy; she and her mother had pulled volunteers out of the vegetable patch and talked about the colors of flowers in their “pretty place,” as she’d called it; her mother dutifully took notes, in green ink, on what kind of party she’d like to have on her birthday; she crushed blueberries into apple slices and shoved them into her peanut butter and honey sandwich over lunch, while detailing for her mother her plans for walking their dog further than the block that she was allowed.
Her mother had heard many threats of the kind, and was not at all bothered by issuing the regular admonishment. Around 1, her mother had let the dog out into the front. She asked her mother, very sweetly, if she could take the dog for a walk and could she please have the leash? Without a word her mother took the dog’s leash off the hook on which it rested just inside the front door and held it out to her precious daughter, who crashed her tricycle against the tree and took the leash, with relish, from her mother’s hand and called sing-song to the dog who loped over with little urgency.
The dog found its own way home several hours later.
Iris Appelquist 28, is native and resident of Kansas City, Missouri. Her forthcoming volume of poems, titled A Good Cover, is due to be released by Spartan Press in 2011. You may contact her by writing c/o Prospero’s Books 1800 W 39th Street KC, MO 64111.