by Heather Hall
She was admitted at age nine for chronic anthropomorphism, assigning feelings to door knobs, afraid to close a window too hard in lest it hurt it. She liked to collect the items that found their way under the refrigerator, quite sure of their relief of being understood. She did not like the paper gowns at the doctors office, and by the time she was twenty, had a collection of ninety two . She saw the doctor twice a week and he supplied sandboxes to construct things with, and the girl, very afraid of play, sat empty handed in his office.
She laughed when she was eight years of age. Her father had bought her a black feather boa, which she never took off, not even to bed. While she was laughing, a feather fell off and blew into the air, some unlucky magic that resulted in crying, heaving, an accumulated ache that was difficult to staunch. Her favorite time of the day was sitting on the stairwell, spying on her family and inhaling second hand smoke. The smoke that gathered in the upstairs looked like love to the girl, and she often would make herself faint by gulping it in, filling herself with all of that love. If she did not inhale the smoke, she would not have anything left , except the black feather boa like a noose around her neck.
On the concrete porch in June, a neighbors dog, with a white cylinder around his neck, sat in front of her and would not leave. She named the dog Captain Blue and Captain Blue named her Girl and together they sat crying. And he ate her feathers. And she let him. Every evening she fed Captain Blue Seven-Up and brought wire hangers to scratch where he could not reach. Captain Blue, like the girl, smiled strangely when Seven-Up popped in his mouth. Time passed. His owner inquired, dragging Captain Blue, belly onto back home. Blue opened his mouth to thank her for the beverages, but a sodden black feather came out instead, and the girl, very afraid of loss, chased after it. But the feather was no longer identifiable, it had changed with use and love and misery, and the girl, very afraid of the things she could not recognize, took the feather boa off forever.
It came time for the girls parents to inquire. She was taken to a red house where she could live with observation, under a steady stethoscope, and the girl, very afraid of love, did not have anything to say. She traded her seven-up and spying for paper gowns and sat in the opposite corner of the sand. A slow counting of days, months, and soon, the resignation of a year. Paperwork was dotted and the car filled with gowns, crafts, an optimism that whatever had occurred in her mind would occur no more, and the girl was free to go. She waved at the trees and the trees did not wave back. She peered at the sky and felt nothing. She stood on the sand and felt nothing. Everyone around her laughing, she noted, all shuffling and feeling nothing.
About the Author
Heather Hall went to Pratt Institute for writing and completed her MFA at The Art Institute of Chicago. She has published at various anthologies and helped Northwestern launch video essays. Now she dabbles in self doubt and watches Jeopardy at 7pm every night.