Break­ing

The Iowa Review - - NEWS - Rachel michelle han­son

I.

When I was a teenager, my brother’s dog died af­ter get­ting hit by some ass­hole speed­ing down our coun­try road, the dog too close to our prop­erty’s edge. I went with him to pick up her body. I car­ried a sheet and tried to tell him not to look, to let me go first. But she was his re­spon­si­bil­ity, and he knew it hurt me to look at suf­fer­ing. She was dead, though her body con­vulsed, so he took his shot­gun to her head. He said it was to be sure he wasn’t with­hold­ing mercy, but I think he just wanted to see what his bul­lets could do. Still, he told me to look away be­fore he pulled the trig­ger. Once, when my fa­ther yelled at that same brother in­stead of me, I didn’t know what to do with my­self. So I snuck out my bed­room win­dow and sat on the faded green tin roof with my six­teen-year-old knees pulled un­der­neath my chin. My brother came up the stairs af­ter my fa­ther stopped hol­ler­ing while my mother watched ap­prov­ingly—al­ways ap­prov­ing of any­one’s shame but her own. He called out my name in a harsh whis­per. “Rachel! Where did you go?” I poked my head back through the win­dow and laughed. “I can’t be­lieve that was you and not me down there for once,” I said. He laughed, said it wouldn’t last. And he was right, it wouldn’t. We jumped off the roof, his knee com­ing up against his lip hard, draw­ing blood, but still we ran fast. Our fa­ther stormed out the front door and yelled but didn’t make to catch us. We went down to Lakeshore Mar­ket and bought candy, and then we went to the lake bot­tom and scanned the mud. I looked at my brother as he threw rocks across the dried-up lake bed and thought about how I stayed awake at night un­til he fell asleep. Though it only hap­pened once, I’ll never for­give him for caus­ing me to lurch awake to shove off his hands that were try­ing to know my four­teen-year-old body. Fuck him for re­mind­ing me there was no safe space un­der my par­ents’ roof.

II. When I gazed hor­ri­fied at the pos­i­tive sign, it was my fel­low river guide and friend, Scott, who stood next to me. He said, “Take an­other. The first one is al­ways wrong.” I took two more and still the plus sign showed up in blue and I was pissed. Ari­zona is one of those fucked states with wait­ing pe­ri­ods and few clin­ics that pro­vide abor­tions. So I

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