CODE -->
Post Road Magazine #33

Lower Houghton, 1977

Kara Moskowitz

You are eight and I am six. The backyard is the entire world, and there we are the same. We play—like sisters, like we haven't only just met. Patty cake, patty cake, baker's man. Cartwheels. Spinning, round and round, until we splatter in hoots and giggles on the grass. A race across the lawn to the jacaranda tree but you didn't touch it, you have to touch it, no you didn't it's a tie! At the tea party, we take dainty, make-believe bites of cucumber sandwiches and tiny cakes. I see you look at me, follow my lead. You don't want me to notice and I see that, too. [What did your make-believe sandwiches possibly look like?] We feed my baby dolls the way your mother fed me, pat their backs as she couldn't pat yours.

In the bath, I ask Margaret: Will Sophie stay with us from now on?

Mar says: No Penny, she's just come for a visit. She will go back in a few days.

I: Does she live far away?

Mar: Quite far, yes. Now lean back your head so I can rinse.

Mum brings you a sack of old clothes, some mine and some hers. But I am smaller than you and mum is bigger, and the jerseys and dresses are mostly too small or too big. The blue dress is your favorite, even though it doesn't zip all the way and Mar must pin it closed at the neck, even though there is a rip in the right sleeve where I caught it on the garden gate. You twirl and twirl

in your new blue dress, hold tight to Enid [She's going to get sick! She's too dizzy!] as if she's your baby doll, as if she's your very own baby. You make mealie pap to feed her [but she doesn't like mealie!]and strap her to your back in a piece of cloth.

I'll show you how to write your name. Here, this is an 'S,' see how I've drawn it? Now you try. Almost, try once more. I make a book of lessons for you to take home. Upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, shapes. We can work on maths another time.

You call Enid Margaret. But Margaret is your mum, not your baby.

Mar: Shh, it's okay Penny.

I: But it isn't her name. Enid will be confused!

Mar: She won't be confused. Enid is very bright, right Penny?

I: Yes, very bright. She's the top pupil at the dolls school.

You carry Margaret [Enid] everywhere. Rock her, change her nappy, sing to her in Sotho the lullabies Mar sings to me. [Who sings them to you?] It is the night before you will return home [the backyard is not the entire world, after all], and Mar says you must give Enid back to me. You look up at Mar, still clutching the doll. Here, I say, and reach out my arms. But then Mum puts her hands on your shoulders and says you must take her with. I look up at Mum, still reaching my arms.

[It was in the morning that I freed her, when Mar took you to the toilet one last time. She was packed in your knapsack, too hot, suffocating among my old clothes, the blue dress with the pin.

The lessons book already crumpled and torn. I chopped off her braids and left her, face down, underneath my bed, for I could no longer stand to look at her.]

 Copyright © 2018 | Post Road Magazine | All Rights Reserved