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Forgiveness Follows Suit 

Second Place

Page 4 of 4

Mother went to the living room and watched him drive away. A few minutes later she came into the kitchen, huge trash bags in both hands.

"No school today," she said. She ran outside and pulled a tarp off the old Dodge Dart my father kept under a plywood lean-to supported by two-by-fours. We packed it up with all our clothes and my toys and books. The rain soaked my clothes and her hair was slicked back and wet. She didn't say much of anything while we worked; just half words under her breath, little curses I'm sure were directed at him. Hours went by until the car was full. The house was bare except for the big furniture – all of our pictures and dishes, our shoes and old albums were piled high in the backseat.

She surveyed the kitchen with the last bag in hand, a plastic grocery sack full of underpants. I watched her from the doorway, exhausted and afraid, holding a folded stack of bulky sweaters and little girl jumpers. She paused, scanning the bare kitchen for anything she'd missed, until her eyes stopped on the old off-white freezer. I wasn't sure what she was doing as she stood, clenching her fists and relaxing them again. I was mesmerized by the veins on the backs of her hands: They were ropey and spastic, like angry snakes under silk sheets. She grabbed it and pulled, but the freezer was too heavy and wouldn't budge. I dropped the clothes and helped her until it slowly began to creak across the floor, gouging deep grooves into the cheap linoleum. We only managed to move it a foot.

"Mama," I huffed, sitting on the floor exhausted. She sank down with me and looked me in the eye for the first time that day. She brushed my hair from my face.

"Granny always said you had Granddaddy's colors," she said. My grandfather was a black Irish, white skin, black hair and red cheeks. She smiled, and I saw the deep gray circles that hung under her eyes.

She crawled behind the freezer, out of sight. I heard the plug pulled from the wall, the motor running down, a flat buzz fading and a sharp pop pop pop, like a playing card in a bicycle spoke, until the room was silent. She came back out with wisps of gray hair and dirt clinging to her knees and hands.

"I always thought you looked more like your father," she said, straightening up her shoulders. She took my hand, threw the dust off her clothes and closed the door, the beef still thawing on the kitchen counter.

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