The Neighbor’s Drawing
Terri Brown-Davidson

My neighbor’s purchased an authentic der Fuhrer drawing.
Gardening in the dirt pocked with puddles and opening holes,
my hands submerged in gloves, I listen to her circling
her house, shouting out to the neighborhood that she’s obtained
a “Hitler original.” Of course curiosity killed the stegosaurus
who ventured too close to Tyrannosaurus Rex. And I know
Sally Minton is underlit, peculiar, strange, the crone rumored
to drop poisoned walnuts in the trick-or-treating kiddies’ bags,
the one some whispered laced her late husband’s tea
with arsenic. But this morning I woke to
no commotion whatsoever, craving drama in a life gone flat
as my daughter’s rice crispies, the milk-sodden cereal
delicately popping. And when I woke up, depressed and borderline
obsessive-compulsive, I whispered, “Please, Buddha or God
(I’m not sure whom I can worship),
bring me an interesting incident
I can emote over, relish;
pump up my dim dull existence with excitement,
make it as bloody, even, as the Andersen fairy tale
where Karen lost both her feet and danced ecstasy-driven on stumps.”
And the good Lord always delivers.
The sun glittered like a stretched white blister in the sky
when I sauntered on over. Sally had “problems,”
the neighbors said, collected trash bags inside her house,
took out the black Hefty bags twenty at a time, propped them up
in her boyfriend’s battered green pickup, drove them to the dump.
As I knocked, I imagined an entire landfill
crammed with Sally’s trash bags, glittering green-black
in the sun, glorious as ravens’ wings. And then
she let me in. I tried not to attend to the stench: rotting oranges,
cakes gone rancid, spilled Cokes wiped up with Scott towels,
the bags piled up to the ceiling. Her hands were dirty;
she wiped them on her apron. “You’re here to see the Hitler?”
she asked. Shyly, I nodded. “Let’s drink Sanka
while we look at it,” Sally said. She laid two sunflower-yellow mugs
on the plastic tablecloth, dropped the Sanka
into hot water. Patiently we sat
while our weak java brewed. Then Sally said,
“It’s in my little boy’s room.”
She brought it downstairs, secreted behind her back.
Whipped it out, grinning, her stained dentures winking.
I stopped drinking Sanka. It all fit, somehow:
the gigantic landscape of rock and stone and brick
drawrfing two tiny stick figures, all elongated torsos and limbs,
and I thought—Adolf and Eva? Yes. I reached out to touch it,
my finger wavering mid-air. It was a pastel drawing on paper.
I wasn’t certain, but it looked authentic.
“Thanks for the Sanka,” I said, and returned home
before she could ask me back.

Since that day I’ve dreamed about it, listened to the whispers
trailing Sally Minton down the street; it’s rumored the drawing’s
a fake. Strange what inhabits the brain in midlife: three trembling leaves
wind-tossed on an elm; a memory of an autumn
when, twenty, I stole my roommate’s boots, never told her
about my crime. And now, this drawing. I see it each morning upon arising,
when I gaze into my daughter’s dark eyes. The buildings
large enough to crush anyone, the uninhabited square
two stick-figures saunter across, the silence that hangs
over the buildings, figures, alive and portentous as breath.

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