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65 11 ~ Emily I don’t know what I expected to find Monday morning at the Hall of Justice, but it wasn’t an x-ray security scanner with a conveyer belt, a metal-detector gateway, and two armed guards. “Empty the contents of your pockets into the blue bucket, ma’am, and place your bag on the belt.” One of the security guards spoke to me without taking his eyes from the screen of his shiny machine. My pockets were empty except for old cough drops, tissue-flecked mittens, four pennies, and two ripped ticket stubs from the matinee of Shrek 2 at the Bing. I dumped the handful of jumble into the blue plastic bowl and watched it disappear into the tunnel, my old pocketbook beside it looking disheveled and discouraged. I pictured the matching gray leather purse and briefcase that Marge carried on Friday afternoon as she prepared for an early start on the weekend. I had asked her what to expect in today’s visit with the probation officer. “You’ll find out when you get there,” Marge said. “Just tell them what they want to hear.” I walked through the metal detector archway, wondering what kind of radiation scatter these things delivered. Shoving the clutter back into my jacket pocket, I shouldered my pocketbook and turned to the guard. “Probation department?” I hoped he wouldn’t think I was asking for myself. All weekend I had felt like a criminal, worrying that I crossed some line when I took Pippa to the park. All weekend I thought about her story. “Elevators around the corner to your left.” His eyes didn’t abandon the display screen. “Third floor. Left turn. First door on the right.” I had the elevator to myself, a quiet moment to worry. I had never met a probation officer. I imagined a bulky man with broad shoulders and a narrow mind, the bulge 66 ~ House Arrest of a holster over his heart. What questions would he ask? How should I answer them, afterfeelingthelandscapetiltwhenIsatwithPippainthedingleandheardherstory? The first door on the right opened into a narrow room crowded with tired-looking people. Alternating green and orange chairs lined three walls. The clerk behind the barred reception window wore a glittery nose ring. I gave her my name. The only empty seat had a large gash in the cushion, bleeding crushed layers of stuffing. I stood awkwardly in the center of the room for a minute, and then sat down on the slashed chair, next to a skinny woman who smelled like low tide. I closed my eyes and tried to take shallow breaths without offending her. Low tide. Maine. Momma did not tell me the whole truth on the ferry trip to the island. She saved the rest for early the next morning, before she left to return to Portland. • MommaandIsittogetheronthebigrockdownbythewater.Coffeerock,that’swhat Aunt Ruth calls it. At first Momma is silent. There is just the placid slap of the waves on the rock and the lazy buzzing of a dragonfly skimming the surface of the water. “About the fire,” Momma says. “I haven’t told you the worst thing. We set the fire in the middle of the night, so no one would be hurt. But a man was working late, cleaning the offices. He was horribly burned. He almost died.” There is something in my chest that balloons and fills up every bit of space, pushing aside my heart and lungs and stomach and liver, all the parts we color on an outline of the human body in class. “We felt awful about it,” Momma says. “We didn’t know how to respond. We never did that kind of protest again. We left Michigan, our commune, our friends. It was a kind of penance, exiling ourselves. Of course we knew it wasn’t enough.” Momma’s voice trails into silence. The dragonfly hovers above the water, in and out of mist. After a while, my arms and legs feel boneless and I drift with the dragonfly out to sea. Momma coaxes me back to land with our special game. We touch foreheads, our eyes closed tight. We chant One-Two-Three-Owl, and on the word Owl, we both open our eyes wide and look into each other, deep and close. Momma promises to call me every evening from Portland. “I have to be there,” she says, “for your father.” What about me? • “Emily Klein.” The clerk called my name. She buzzed...


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MARC Record
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