A. C. Peterson
It is the noise that starts the shrinking, she thinks as she stares with doe eyes and trembles like that seven-year-old she once was, running through the catalog in her head of the sensations laced together and lacerated into her brain surface, such as the resistance a rusty gun trigger gives just before firing and wondering how hard she can pull just before it shoots, the wishing her heart would beat quieter because her panting and its beating will certainly give her location under the pile of dirty laundry in the hall closet away and she will certainly be found, the slapping of curled fingers on face that come with the salty taste of blood or tears or spit or whatever it is running into her eyes, and the half-remembered prayers that a god she hardly believed in would come down from a cloud with a big, mighty hand like a Monty Python cartoon and clear the world of everyone but her and the kittens found under the porch.
She tells herself the noise is natural, it is her, her reaction that is sick.
Whenever the air rings with crunch of car metal against car metal, whenever windowpanes tinkle into piles at three am, but more often the noise that accompanies the tightness of throat whenever someone has reached their true wits end, this woman in the office chair shrinks to become a seven-year-old girl, complete with braids brushing against her neck, baseball bat in hand and uttering in her mind the phrase that was only once said aloud, her parents laughing in her face, but kept her father staring cautiously at her every night before he slept for the next 11 years.
Stop it now or I'll fucking kill you and I goddamn mean it.
Today at twenty seven she is seven again and standing lost, small and completely out of frame and focus like the monk with the striped cane and the little glasses that no one is really looking for and is angry to be distracted by in the middle of Where's Waldo 4 and she is swaying under the weight of all the things that have nothing to do with the things at hand.
But at least she no longer means it.
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