restricted access Miss Leona Gifford's Hair
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33 Miss Leona Gifford’s Hair Long before my father died we whispered how Miss Gifford was bald. That’s why she wore her wimple summer and winter, to hide her loss, we said. And I thought, the way I tried to hide mine. Because after we buried my tall father, he still cast a shadow, heaped up in his death, filling the four corners of the world, and whatever light the teachers tried to throw against my mind’s wall— the good and holy beacons of history and science— were blocked by the shadow of my father. When my friends felt its cold edges creep toward them they wouldn’t touch me, they scattered like magnets fleeing from another magnet. I sat alone at recess on the slatted bench. One day Miss Gifford held out her thimble hand to me. I heard her say, Help me carry these books. With my shadow hands I picked up her books and walked beside her to her office, where she lifted their mortal weight from me. Oh sing, Muse, of how she turned and stripped off the black cape that we said made her fly like Zorro, how she unlaced the black rowboats that we said made her skim across the River Styx, how she took off the wire-rims that made her eyes small as a pig’s, how the blue eyes were wet, how she said, I’m sorry, child, how she looked small and thin and trembled like a wet cat when she untied her scarf and shook out her blonde hair like a gift into the darkness. ...


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