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Child’s Bedroom, 1933

From: The Missouri Review
Volume 36, Number 1, 2013
pp. 49-50 | 10.1353/mis.2013.0025

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

She sat in a hard rocker by the boy’s poster bed
when everyone had gone to sleep. His mother
wouldn’t hear any backtalk about it—no matter
that Berta had been up three nights straight with him,
that she’d pulled up every weed in Terrebonne Parish
this morning on bad knees in the bald sun.

He’d snap himself in half with coughing, and she
would draw the heavy water basin close, ring out
a strip cut from flour sacks and dab at him, fan him
to put off the dampness. Oil and sweat
layered his purpling eyelids, his soapy sinking
cheeks. His young man’s temper, bright and hot
in him, was flattened out by fever. His toys,
passed down and overused, needed dusting now.

He spat on her once when nobody else could see.
He couldn’t say but a few words back then,
he was so small. But he could spit hard like a man.
And if he hadn’t broken more dishes
than she could recall—took joy in it, too.
He’d slide them, plates and saucers, to the edge
of the supper table, scoot them with his little finger,
a breath at a time, like a contest against himself.
When they came undone with a cry on the wood
floors, he smiled in private triumph.

She was half asleep in her chair when he cried out.
“Berta!” he shrieked through cracked lips, the first sound
he’d made in days. She should wake his mother,
let her see her boy’s eyes open, but she couldn’t
quite make herself rise up. The boy reached
for the water near his bed, splashed it with his fist onto
the rug. Beat hard on Berta’s arm when she tried
to sponge his mouth with her linen rag.

And then, his eyes turned back into his head
like Berta’d seen in others with the yellow sickness
just before life left them flat.
She couldn’t ever say why she just sat,
never rang or cried out for another soul. Just rocked,
her soil-roughed hands folded on her knees.
His body twitched a while, bowels loosed,
breath slowed and raced and slowed. Death’s unfed
fingers had him, but toyed with him a while, drew him
up to the very precipice of gray eternity by increments
of eyelashes until there was nothing left
but to watch him tumble over and rejoice.

Copyright © 2013 The Curators of the University of Missouri
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Katie Bickham. "Dining Room, 1811, and: Kitchen, 1850, and: Master Bedroom, 1859, and: Front Porch, 1900, and: Widow’s Walk, 1917, and: Child’s Bedroom, 1933, and: Parlor, 2012." The Missouri Review 36.1 (2013): 41-52. Project MUSE. Web. 22 Jul. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Bickham, K.(2013). Dining Room, 1811, and: Kitchen, 1850, and: Master Bedroom, 1859, and: Front Porch, 1900, and: Widow’s Walk, 1917, and: Child’s Bedroom, 1933, and: Parlor, 2012. The Missouri Review 36(1), 41-52. University of Missouri. Retrieved July 22, 2014, from Project MUSE database.
Katie Bickham. "Dining Room, 1811, and: Kitchen, 1850, and: Master Bedroom, 1859, and: Front Porch, 1900, and: Widow’s Walk, 1917, and: Child’s Bedroom, 1933, and: Parlor, 2012." The Missouri Review 36, no. 1 (2013): 41-52. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 22, 2014).
TY - JOUR
T1 - Dining Room, 1811, and: Kitchen, 1850, and: Master Bedroom, 1859, and: Front Porch, 1900, and: Widow’s Walk, 1917, and: Child’s Bedroom, 1933, and: Parlor, 2012
A1 - Bickham, Katie
JF - The Missouri Review
VL - 36
IS - 1
SP - 41
EP - 52
PY - 2013
PB - University of Missouri
SN - 1548-9930
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/missouri_review/v036/36.1.bickham.html
N1 - Volume 36, Number 1, 2013
ER -

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