by Joan Slatoff
Honorable Mention – Flash 405, June 2017: “Nemesis”
I live in a new country called the U.S. I have a new mother with little white teeth.
My new father brings us food from the grocery store. Round red meat patties. I don’t like how they look bloody until my new mother cooks them brown and then they taste good with salt.
My father gives me food but he doesn’t like me. I sit next to him on the white front seat of his car with a lot of room around me. He stays way over by the steering wheel—scooched over behind that steering wheel like he doesn’t want to touch my skin or my shirt with his hand. I sneak a look at his hand on the steering wheel. It is tan colored and covered with messy brown hairs. I know the other side of his hand is an angry red.
Mister Poke is my new father’s name. My real father is shiny black like coal. His name was Owuso. He is a was. My real mother is a was too. I liked to climb on her and hug her with my skinny legs until she pushed me away and laughed in her belly.
My new mother is Mommy. She rubs her hand over my bumpy hair. “Mommy loves Abeeku,” she says. Mommy cooks eggs with a hat for me. She cuts a hole out of a piece of bread and puts it in a pan. She plops an egg into the hole. She fries it all up and puts the cut out part on top of the egg. Every day I say, “Make me egg hat.” And every day she does.
My real country had chickens. I could find warm eggs under a bush. My real mother cracked those eggs into spicy red sauce. When I grow up I’m going to have lots of chickens. I will collect their warm eggs and give them to my mother. I will train those chickens to peck the hairs on my new father’s hands.
The language in this piece is beautiful. The descriptions are beautifully realized and provide a rich look into Abeeku’s world. In a time when adopting children from outside of the U.S. has become something of a status symbol, I would love to read a longer piece from Abeeku’s viewpoint.
Joan Slatoff grew up and lives in Ithaca, New York, but has also spent significant time in Iceland, France, and Wales. In her semi-retirement from Head Start and the world of early childhood education, she has rediscovered her love for creative writing. This is her first published piece since 1969.