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LILLY, MY SWEET I Judy Ruiz THERE'S SOME THINGS I want you to know. When that woman set herself on fire, she had a reason. When I watched her burn, I had a reason. This is no trial. I already went through enough of that, not that it was a real trial. It was a bunch of doctors and some nurses and me, and we sat around a big oak table and I screamed twice. I screamed when Dr. Cavasulu asked me, "Why you not help her not burn?" And I had reasons for screaming. My reasons get mixed up in my head now, just like they did when he asked the question. I go back to that day and how I smoked my cigarette and watched the leaves swirl on the lawn, and I could see the woman's skirt on fire and how the flames looked like the leaves. Pretty soon the flames were outside the window, swirling, and the woman danced in a skirt of autumn. The second time I screamed was when another doctor said, "Well, I think this whole matter tells us that Lilly is where she needs to be." Lilly is me. Where I need to be is on the moon, not in a conference room in a state institution that I have named Bewildered Palms. I need to be on the moon with some oxygen and a good book. I call the place Bewildered Palms in honor of Margaret and Joan. Margaret's the skinny one who will stand for hours with one hand up in the air and her other hand covering her mouth. Then a nurse will come along and take Margaret's hand down out of the air and take the other hand away from her mouth while Margaret's blue eyes focus on the linoleum. The nurse will take her to a chair and sit her down and say, "There. That's better." Margaret will stare at the floor for a while, but pretty soon she'll start looking at her hands, turning them so she can see her palms, then so she can see the backs, then palms up again. Next, she'll say, "No. Oh, no," bolt upright out of the chair, assume her hand-in-the-air, hand-to-mouth position, as if she has just read her own fortune of terror. Joan is fat and walks like a toddler. At medicine time, she holds her thorazine pills in her left hand until the orange color starts to come off. The nurse will say, "Joan, put your pills in your mouth now," and Joan will grin, squeeze her left hand into a fist, 106 ยท The Missouri Review and start her little dance from one foot to the other, a swaying she has to do. And she has to do it until she's done. I saw her get those pills four times a day every day for as long as I was there, and every time the nurse would say the same thing and Joan would sway. On and on. The dance of bricks. If Td have been the nurse, I'd have mashed those pills up and stuck them in her biscuits about day two. When Joan got finished dancing, she'd swallow her pills and open her hand, holding it up for the world to witness the orange smudges on her palm. Then she'd pat her palm to first the right and then the left cheek, rouging herself up for the finale: she'd lick her palm and wipe it on her dress. Miracle accomplished while the rest of us waited in line. My own palms held no surprises. Both of them square as a hoe blade, and a small scar in the center of the right one from when I'd stuck a hairpin into an electrical outlet when I was two, a jolt that blew me halfway across the living room, so my mother says. I just thought of this: maybe you don't trust me now that you know where I was. Well, I'm not there anymore. Not that it makes any difference in my thinking, which only...


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