The Peephole

     Janet Buck
1952. It's a horrible wreck. Blood and guts strewn everywhere like turkey gizzards falling in a sink. Only Esther survives. Four years old. Cute, if not for her frumpy name. Pretty, if not for scars from the tip of her head, shaved clean as bars of soap. A dozen surgeries patch the shredded quilt. Years are commas between unspoken words.

"Comas never last this long. She's dead, but doesn't know she's dead," says one MD.

The rest concur.

"She has no memory, just drool jetting from seals around the feeding tube. Machines take space where visitors should sit. All four brothers died, since they were in the backend of the pickup truck, which rolled the cliff, burst in raging flames. The rescue team was nervous, slow, and overwhelmed," he tells a newbie resident. Thanksgiving Day, a thoughtful nurse puts turkey bastings into Esther's feeding tube.


8:00 a.m. August 23rd. The year 2020's here. Esther snaps awake. A vase is full of brown and cloudy water. Grisly stems of marigolds, once yellow, droop. Once upon a time, Esther's aunt came by to visit, sit a minute, maybe two.

"Where are my dolls? May I have my Barbie dolls?" Esther asks a nurse in the home. Asking is reflex, not a wish. The nurse is frozen cod, too stunned to move. 1543 Serenity Lane. Hillsdale, Texas with no hills. Flat ground. The nurse's face — flat ground. This isn't possible. Fran has itchy armpits under scrubs.

"Sorry, but we threw them out. Where have you been for more than sixty years?" she asks — as if some child is simply late from school.

"Watching through the ragged peepholes in these sheets," Esther tells her, croaking like a tired mockingbird, nostrils full of diesel fumes.

"I bit on circles of cloth to widen their circumference. You all have brains of empty peanut shells. Hard & fuzzy coconuts — no milk — just thirst."

"Say What?" The nurse is listening.

"I've been busy watching footsteps stomp & grind the misted grass. How can people burn wet grass? Each minute, wisdom turns my head. You should have let me pass away, n'est-ce pas? I witnessed everything on earth. 9/11's ash is in my nose." Fran calls her doc and STAT.

"No wonder I can't breathe," Esther says, staring at this shocked MD with beetle eyes. "You screwed around on your wife. As she was changing dirty diapers of your crippled child, her legs like branches bitten by a hurricane, you were busy humping some young thing with rosy cheeks. I watched. No wonder your fancy spit-shined yacht lost its anchor rope. I saw your shark jaws eat its threads. I watched it hit a rock & sink." Mot juste.

"One more thing. My hair is blonde, not dyed grey. No one here gets cookies & chocolate milk before they crawl in bed. I'm four years old, deserve a treat now & then." Everyone who's in the room has cotton mouth.

"Excuse me, but I have to go. I see Mama's shadow waiting for my hand. The clouds upstairs are whites of eggs — fresh whipped cream--no urine stains."

"Say What?" The doctor spins on smooth Italian leather loafers. Both heels scratch the sterile tile.

"Another thing," Esther whispers. Then she ups her voice.

"Clocks are busy Ferris wheels — county fairs don't last all year. Go find your kid! She's run away — without two feet. Amy is her name. Have you forgotten how to say it? Your wife chose Amy over Becky. Amy stands for 'I am me.' Becky's short for beckoning. She's lost among the barley beards & Camphor weed, looking for a glass of chocolate milk, two straws & créme-filled Oreos. Take off your rubber gloves, pull out thistles. After all, you slipped them in."

The EKG is one straight line.

Janet Buck

is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee & the author of four full-length collections of poetry. Buck's most recent work is featured in Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee & the author of four full-length collections of poetry. Buck's most recent work is featured in The Birmingham Arts Journal, Antiphon, Offcourse, PoetryBay, Poetrysuperhighway, Abramelin, The Writing Disorder, Misfit Magazine, Lavender Wolves, riverbabble, The Danforth Review & other journals worldwide. Her latest print collection of verse, Dirty Laundry, is currently available at all fine bookstores. Buck’s debut novel, Samantha Stone: A Novel of Mystery, Memoir & Romance, was released courtesy of Vine Leaves Press in September, 2016. Janet lives & writes in Southern Oregon — just hours away from Crater Lake, one of the seven wonders of the world. For links, announcements, and interviews with Janet, visit her new website:

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