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BACTINE/Mo//y McNett IT WAS HER SKIN that she loved the most. It was clear, even-toned, dewy! She would stroke it, knead it, pull a pinch away from her face and let it snap back; With Oil of Olay, I get the fine, light protection that's never greasy, she'd whisper, then press up to the mirror with an open mouth, licking the cool glass in circles with her tongue. She was competitive. She liked to measure things. Who was brighter, Ellen, Dad or Mom? Which one was funnier? Who had the most talent? Let's say a rapist came to the house; who would he have sex with? Ellen, of course, Ellen, and Ellen. Because she was sarcastic, because she was "gifted," because she was not a hick like the rest of the family, because—évidemment—she had the best skin in the house. She tried to prepare herself for him, because ten was too young and it would surely hurt when it happened, possibly causing infection. A vagina, when you looked up close, was kind of like an ugly wound that needed dressing. Paper towels had to be saturated with Bactine and stuck in the underwear, then pressed into place with the palm of the hand. This stung incredibly. —Just one minute more, Mrs. Bragg, are you holding up okay? —Yes, doctor . . . Isuppose it is nothing compared to the pain ofchildbirth . . . —It is the burden you must bear Mrs. Bragg —Yes, I understand —Lean back, please —Like this? —Very good. Now relax —Lile this? —Here we go. You're doingfine It became increasingly exciting to force these sessions on herself. She dreaded and looked forward to them at the same time, pressing harder and longer with each visit. As there were no locks on the doors, the sessions were best performed during the hours of three to six, while her mom was at the psychiatrist and her dad was outside doing chores. On the bus, on the way home, she'd begin planning the treatment; whether it would involve standing and using a hand mirror, or lying supine on the countertop, underwear at the knee. It was also a time to The Missouri Review · 273 consider what products might be involved after the procedure, to soothe and cool the area. These might include: Mycatracin ointment, Pond's cold cream, or Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion for Sensitive Skin. When her dad said they wanted to have an Important Talk with her, this was the first thing she thought of. Maybe he'd come in early from chores and spied on her, or maybe somebody had peeped in the window without the curtain. Maybe he'd gone through the garbage and discovered the wads of toilet paper with products on them. What have you been using so much Mycatracin for? she imagined him asking, don't you know it's expensive? And why are there vagina-shaped wads of toilet paper in the basket? How would she respond? She'd just look like she didn't know what he was talking about, and if he persisted she'd say if hurts, or if itches; then put a blank look on her face. Instead, he said, "Grandma's going to come live with us for awhile, to help look after you." Ellen stood there. "Is that okay with you Ellen?" "Mom looks after me," said Ellen. "We know she does, but she's getting worried about you after school with nobody here, and I have chores to do, I can't be watching you all the time. Once in a while would be okay for you, you're old enough now, but Mommy doesn't think every day is a good idea." Dad patted Mom on the shoulder, but she didn't look up from the floor. "I don't need anyone to baby-sit me," Ellen said, blinking. "Tm too old for that, anyhow." "I know you are," said Dad, "but you know Mommy doesn't remember to get you up sometimes—and you have two Lates already. One more and you'll get in-school suspension." "Why don't you get me up?" Dad narrowed his...


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pp. 173-185
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