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DOLL HOSPITAL / Dixie Lane My sister was the responsible one. I remember we brought her our tired, wag-eared babies, unsprung sausage curls, eyes of scratched cobalt, roUed into a sunken cave where the carcasses of hopes and fears coUected and reflected back. Pale and implacable with peony smiles, they waited for her touch. She twisted their necks backward, pressed their crybaby hearts to her ear. She was Dr. Patient, pudgy fingers playing over hinged and waxy legs. She raised from a Kleenex bed a spüt and crumbUng baby, cured it and herself with one touch of polyurethane. She sprayed Betsy Wetsy's head silver once, a foU crown of secret royalty, or luminous mark for ahens. Sun streaked the dusty waUs of her flimsy hospital, crucified the tile. Lucy and Dezi spoke through her whUe she stitched an arm back on. She moved from chart to chart, gathering clues—part angel, part sleuth, dispensing pastel puis, a sainted Nancy Drew who never solved the mystery. When they cried, manufactured tears spoiled satin bows and rusted their metal, 140 · The Missouri Review perforated hearts. Then she received them one by one in a white coUar and Perry Mason scowl. Seams twisted, valentine Ups unloosed a run-away train of confessions: cigarettes on the sly, snitched bittersweet, what happened under the bed, aU shapes and sizes of Ues. In the blue veil of afternoon confessor and sinner merged. She knelt on the cold, unforgiving tile, caught between the blink of peUucid baby blues, and the fixed eyes of the lonely lady watching from her cool alcove, bewildered but always fuU of grace. Dixie Lane The Missouri Review · 242 SNAKE IN THE PIANO / Dixie Lane Fourteen, and my son's body was a burning rope, fueled by the tensile silence of becoming. He danced inside a taut suit of bones, as if one false breath would puff him into smoke. The river sang in his sleep, musk of lizard, poUywog and skink. He needed their cool pulses against his, hard red eyes to bead his darkness. My height, if it could stand, and wide as a clenched fist, his buU snake shimmied on the lawn, reached with its body striking our forked shadows. They lay together in the candled depths of black Ught, a flocked, glow-in-the-dark cobra for headboard; speUbound in heavy metal, incense, amphibian breath. In green aquarium Ught, he shuddered, sighed, stretched— too much tightness, old surfaces in need of stuffing, aU softness and warmth, a threat. It was the distant bend of river, conga nights, mosquito stab in moon scum, packed into their coUed bodies, old and new instincts flicking against glass. 142 · The Missouri Review Stories of surfacing in toilets, breeding in the pipes, choking babies in their sleep. Doors and stucco waUs were not made for them, or shag rugs under their crooked paths. But this long, thin stranger was no ordinary guest—that hissing whip of ingratitude escaped inside the piano, and, making tatooed music, was ready to discard his own flesh and test the limits of his phylum. Dixie Lane The Missouri Review · 243 ...


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