Pasatiempo - - Holiday Writing Contest -

That’s all. Are you shy? she asks. Don’t be shy. You’re al­most 8 now, aren’t you? You’re go­ing to like it where we live. Al­len­town’s a nice town. You’ll go to a new school, learn new things, make new friends. Wouldn’t you like that? Wouldn’t you? The boys and girls laugh­ing and play­ing in the snow holds me, and when I still don’t look at her and don’t say any­thing she turns around and I stare at her neck, sud­denly won­der­ing about the flower that has filled the car with its fra­grance, sud­denly want­ing to touch the wool of her hat and feel the curls of her thick dark hair. My fa­ther works the knobs on the ra­dio to clear the whis­tles, mak­ing the nee­dle go right and left on a ruler marked with num­bers 5 to 16. When the shush and crack­ling clears, a man’s voice booms smooth and as if he was deep down in a cave. Then a lady sings kay serah serah, her voice fol­lowed by mu­sic that says the same thing. I see her in a white dress swinging on a swing, her legs kick­ing out and her dress swoosh­ing through the air while she sings kay serah serah serah serah. A happy lady, who smells good and is al­ways smil­ing. In front, the hat and the feather sway side to side. She hums, then sings along with the words. My fa­ther opens the door, snuffs his nose and spits. In the mir­ror his eyes shift to me when a boy runs up and knocks on my win­dow. He scrunches his face and sticks out his tongue, then wipes the snot with his sleeve and waves his hand stiffly like a wooden toy. He raps his knuck­les on the fender then knocks on the trunk and on the other fender, then runs off with a loud silly laugh. My fa­ther twists his body around to look at me. He hooks a fin­ger and pulls at the knot of his tie. Aren’t you go­ing to say Hello to your Aunt Vera? She would like that, you know. He stares, only for a sec­ond, then turns tug­ging his big coat around with him.

The song ends. The man’s voice booms and the lady turns the knob and makes it go quiet. My fa­ther places both hands on the wheel, not look­ing and not talk­ing. Then he rolls down the win­dow and breathes the cold air, first in, then out, slowly, as if he was count­ing, like when at night I pre­tend I’m blind and count the steps from my bed to the toi­let. He breathes a cloud on the win­dow. His eyes close in the mir­ror. In­side the ruler there is a light.

Ver-ah. Ver-ah. I’m prac­tic­ing the word. Silently. To my­self. To learn the sound. To feel the V on my lips and the a in my throat. To make sure I push out the V and breathe out the a. I do this be­cause Sis­ter says I must lis­ten and prac­tice my words be­fore I say them, or peo­ple will al­ways poke fun and laugh at me. Veer-ah. Veer-ahh. And Ahhnt. Ahhnt — my mouth opens on the A and closes on the t, gulp­ing the word like a fish. Martin Desht is a doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher who has worked on projects in Philadel­phia and Ire­land, among other places. He has lived in Santa Fe for more than a year.

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