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ABOUT WAYNE/Michele Morano SOME APRILS IN UPSTATE New York school was canceled because of snow, and my brother and I imagined what Ufe would be tike if summer never came again. There were a lot of years Uke that, but I can only think of two amazingly warm AprUs, and this, the year of Wayne, is the second. It's late afternoon, and I'm sitting Ui the woods out back, on a log at the edge of a smaU stream, thighs pulled close to my chest. I've been here for a while and have no intention of moving yet, so determined am I to show everyone. Right now there's no one around to show, but I lay my cheek against my knee anyway, m the pose of someone wronged. I've been posing a lot lately, acting out my emotions Ui a way that has everyone else rolling their eyes. Since December we've lived Ui a crowded house in the country, while the house I used to call home sits more than half empty on a suburban street eight mUes away. That's my father's house now, and Ui it my old room echoes. The sun-faded carpet is darker where the bed and dresser used to be, and tape marks from my posters mar the walls. My brother's room echoes too, and the living room shows signs of a house divided: a couch but no coffee table, a standing lamp with no otive recliner beside it. My new room, m the house behind me, the house I've just run from, is small. It's L-shaped, with my bed on one end and her bed on the other. I've never shared a bedroom until now, and the only thing that keeps me from choking Jean's daughter is that she spends most weekends with her father, so I get some time alone. I'm twelve, and time alone feels as necessary to me as food. Altogether, seven of us live Ui this house. There are my mother, Matt, and I. And then there are Jean and her three kids—two boys and the girl who keeps leaving her things on my side of the room. We've been living together for five months now, and we've taken on the shape of something Uke a famtiy. My mother and Jean are the parents, and we five kids are the know-it-aUs, the ones who think no one, anywhere, ever, wiU understand what we're going through. I'm undeniably the worst of the bunch. But I don't care. Sitting here stabbing at the muddy bank of the creek with a maple twig, I don't care what anybody thinks of me because for once Ui my life, I am so right it's not even possible to argue. I don't care how hard my mother tries to make a go of it with Jean, or how worried 164 · The Missouri Review she is about my father suing for custody. I don't care that she works every day m a printing factory from seven until four and then comes home to kids fighting and threatening letters from lawyers and a lot of uncertainty about the future. I just care about what's right. My exit was dramatic. I made sure the screen door flew all the way open and slammed hard. I made sure everyone heard me shout, "Leave me alone!" I locked eyes with Jean's mother before I left, appealing to her Ui a way I could see worked. She's on my side, and that's the only thing that has made me feel better in a long time. Jean's mother is called "Ma" by Jean and her three kids, by all their friends and relatives and by my mother, Matt and me. Ma is a hardnosed woman with a wrinkled face that doesn't smile unless something tickles her, and I like that. Lately I've grown tired of trying to figure out the adult code, the way to read adults' words and expressions Ui order to understand what they really think...


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pp. 164-175
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