The Girl in the Photo on the Front Page
J B Mulligan

She's looking down at a tarpaulin, under which, the caption said, lies the body of her father. In the background, a policeman is hurrying over to lead her away. He was reprimanded later for letting her near the body, but nobody let her past, she just wandered out of the house and down the yard and she stands over the body, uncertain. She has on a white dress with red polka dots (black in th photo) and though it is a warm June day, she is chilled. Years went by, with Poppy and Gram, alone, with a string of good-hearted, morally casual men, alone, and nobody knew, nobody is as alone as the girl in the photo, inside her like a snapshot in a sturdy album, the only one in black and white. All the other photos, dances, friends, vacations, dogs with long curved tongues, were bright and slick and flat, scenes reduced to painted squares, moments like bric-a-brac. She smiled with some frequency, but the girl in the photo never smiles. Something is under the tarpaulin, a lost life, a vanished face, and the face of the girl is puzzled, this is a game she never understood. There were things she didn't speak of, not even to herself. She was warm before, and now there is a wind, though she does not feel it on her skin, and it will never stop.

First published: May, 2008
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