Fall 2008

Table of Contents - Vol. IV, No. 3


Poetry    Translations    Fiction    Essays   

Katie Hines


My Name Is Bib

My name is Bib and I am beautiful. You can ask anyone, especially the guys at school, and they will all agree. My thick, shiny dark brown hair causes all the boys’ fingers to twitch as they ache to reach out and stroke it.
And my eyes, well, they’re to die for. Really. One boy told me they’re as green as emeralds and twice as brilliant. Hardly original, but true.
The guys notice my body, too. I can’t help but smile when I remember what happened in English class the day Mr. Garvey listed “voluptuous” as one of our vocabulary words.
“Who the heck knows what ‘voluptuous’ means?” Jimmy asked.
Devin piped up. “Me. You know, it’s a body all curvy and luscious, like Bib’s.”
All the boys laughed, even Mr. Garvey. My face heated, but in my secret heart, I liked it.
Not one single girl laughed. Not one single girl even smiled. They recognize my beauty and jealousy oozes from their stares. When I snap my fingers, their boyfriends immediately abandon them. Once, Eric even tripped on his shoelace in his eagerness to stand beside me. So, of course the girls hiss with anger, which I shrug aside. I pity them for their plainness, for their dull, mousy personalities.
When I leave school and arrive at home, though, things are different. Today, I unlock and shove open the heavy front door. My book bag slumps to its usual place on the dingy tile underneath the armed alarm panel.
I punch in the code, ignoring its silent testament of the break-in and the following events. My shaking hand smoothes my hair.
“Mom, I’m home!” I cock my head, ears straining, listening.
My Nikes squeak on the brown tiles as I cross the wide foyer and poke my head into the living room. The shades are drawn, closing out the freshness of the day. But I know she’s not there. She’s never there anymore.
Back across the foyer, I push open the louvered swinging doors into the darkened cave of a kitchen. The dirty breakfast dishes rise like lonely stalagmites in the draining board, a reminder of those missing.
Back in the foyer, I tremble before the maw of the beige carpeted stairs. Bitter bile invades my mouth at the sour knowledge of where I’ll find her.
Looking down, I wipe sweaty hands on my black, low-riding jeans. My fingers squeeze the wooden handrail as I begin my descent. The thick, carpeted silence enwraps me, and my feet drag as they did when I approached the casket at the memorial service.
Two steps from the bottom, I pause and glance back up toward the front door, yearning for my book bag and all it represents.
At the bottom of the stairs, my sister’s bedroom door stands ajar. A gentle push opens the white, virginal door. A small sob draws my eyes to the carpeted floor where my mother lies, her thin body curled around a half-empty bottle of her only friend: Jack Daniels.
“What are you doing home, Barbara?” she asks, voice thick.
I hate when she calls me Barbara. “My name is Bib,” I recite to myself in a mantra all my own.
“Erin, my sweet Erin,” she moans, her words slurred. Pushing up, she brushes her limp blonde hair of dead ends from her face.
“School’s out,” I say, answering the question alcohol stole from her. “Can I help you with dinner?” I hope she’s going to say “yes” but I know she’ll only leave Erin’s room to relieve herself.
She ignores me and turns to the twin bed, shadowed with the specter of death. Its smooth pink comforter and plumped pillows wait for Erin, who already sleeps.
Reaching out, my mother clutches my sister’s favorite glass doll, draped in its false finery, to her breast.
Rocking back and forth, she whimpers and tenderly kisses the doll’s cheeks and strokes its fake blonde hair. Her dull blue eyes focus on a past she desperately wishes was the present. I watch from the doorway, quiet as pain knifes through me, waiting for the outburst I know comes next.
“Why wasn’t it you?” she screams, half-rising from the floor, her eyes burning. I chew on my lower lip, say nothing.
Collapsing, she embraces the doll once more and kisses it again as her eyes fill. “Why Erin, my beautiful Erin? So young, so lovely.”
My personal trail of tears etch their daily story onto my face and weariness drapes its arm across my shoulders.
Her head swings up, angry again. “Look at yourself, Barbara, you’ve let yourself go. Those clothes, they hang on you and they’re. . . they’re dirty.”
Her lips twist into a sneer. “Your hair needs to be washed. It’s greasy and uncombed, not like hers.” Her voice falls away to a murmur again and she strokes the doll’s hair. “My God, her beautiful, golden hair.”
My feet stand rooted in the doorway like my mother remains rooted in the past, and they refuse to move, to let me escape.
Mother presses the pretty doll against her bloated face as if the doll could somehow come alive and be Erin, my mother’s only beautiful child.
Then, I wrench myself from the doorway and flee from my mother and Erin, breath hitching as if I’m desperate to suck in enough life.
Fumbling with my doorknob, I fling the door open, then slam it shut behind me. Seizing the large bed pillows, I hurl them to the floor, my body shaking. Grabbing greasy handfuls of my long hair, I yank hard and scream, “Ugly! I’m so ugly! I’m not beautiful, like her. She’s right. It should have been me!”
Jerking open the drawer of my bedside table, I pull out a pair of scissors. Standing with trembling hands, I hack my dull, mousy hair. Chop, chop. Chop. Ragged, lackluster brown strands fall dead to the floor, and my tears drip, drip, adding their sorrow. My foot shoves aside my plain hair, so unlike Erin’s halo blonde.
Short brown spikes poke up from my cropped head and my swollen eyes feel red. Red, the color of hell, of hatred and anger. Red because I’m not beautiful like Erin.
And Erin? She is gone. Murdered in the flush of youth as surely as a rose snipped before fully formed.
My chest heaves and my nose drips as I drop the scissors on top of the discarded, ugly hair. Whimpering, I rummage in the drawer and pull out my well-worn diary and kiss its soft cover. Thick with secrets, it remains my confidante and only friend.
My favorite writing pen lies tucked between the last written page and the next blank page. Lowering myself to sit Indian-style on the thick carpet, I ignore the snipped locks and wipe my nose on my baggy sweater.
Pen in hand, my thoughts race from my room and touch, then shrink from the vision of my mother, mourning for Erin. Next, they fly upstairs to stop beside my book bag resting next to the door which leads to a different world.
With a wistful smile, I curl over my open diary and my lips whisper the words as I copy the last written page.
“My name is Bib,” I write, “and I am beautiful. You can ask anyone, especially the guys at school, and they will all agree . . .”


© Katie Hines



Poetry    Translations    Fiction    Essays   

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