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FICTION Helter


Skelter by Ellen Birkett Morris


at the sun or I’d go blind. She also told me that Beatles song “Helter Skelter” drove some guy crazy and he formed a cult and murdered people. I didn’t listen to the radio for a while after that. I still look at the sun though. I can’t help it. It’s up there, daring me to look. My father hardly ever sees the sun. He works nights at the Ford plant and sleeps during the day. Sometimes early in the morning I feel him kiss my forehead. Once I woke up to find him kneeling by the bed just looking at me and Amber. She slept beside me, on her side of the bed, which was two inches bigger than my side. She put blue painter’s tape down the middle of the bed. When I crossed it Amber pinched me. When she was out riding her bike I measured it. I’m not the athletic type, which is good because if I was I wouldn’t have anyone to play ball with anyway. I hang out with Lucy from down the street. She has glasses and feathered hair. We walk down to the library and buy candy at the convenience store. Amber road her bike and sometimes rode in cars with boys. She made me swear not to tell dad. Every now and then she’d throw me a bag of candy and say “for our little secret.” I don’t believe in secrets. Sooner or later everything comes out. Like the truth about our momma. Dad said she was killed in an accident. But I saw in the newspaper that her car broke down on the highway and that she stepped out into traffic. Right into it. I wonder if the sun got in her eyes and she just couldn’t see where she was going. Those things happen. Strange things happen all the time. Like when I saw a girl who looked just


My sister Amber told me not to stare 12


like Amber smoking in front of Mike’s Pub. Mike’s is where the old guys sit and drink beer in the afternoon. I pass by there sometimes and glance in. It’s dark inside, with clouds of cigarette smoke. The television over the bar always has a game on. Old guys are hunched over on stools.


Dad quit going to Mike’s after mom


died. All he does now is work and sleep. He wakes up in time for dinner, which Amber made from a box. Chicken casserole from a box. Macaroni and cheese from a box. Spaghetti from a box. When she was in a real bad mood, she’d “forget” to drain the grease off the hamburger before adding it to the noodles. I went to Lucy’s on the days Amber made meatloaf. Her meatloaf was nasty. Now we have takeout. Momma was a good cook. She’d feed me bits of carrot or jelly beans from a jar as she cooked. She’d dance around the kitchen while the food cooked. She always drained the grease. She hung wind chimes over the kitchen sink even though there is no wind in the kitchen. She’d run her fingers across the chimes to hear the notes. It was my favorite sound. Now, my favorite sound is the theme song to the Flintstone’s, where you get to meet them and know all about them. I’m pretty sure Amber’s favorite sound was a Beatles song, even though they drove that man crazy. Crazy like Jim, who came back from Vietnam with a tattoo of a heart on his palm and goes up to people on the street and screams “Look at the sacred, bleeding heart of Jesus.” I looked, but I didn’t see any blood. Sometimes there were spots of blood on our bed sheets when I didn’t cut


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