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Harmatttan by KJ Hannah Greenberg


Timothy hung Dorothy off of their family’s mirpesset. He was about to release her second foot when Mom walked onto the porch. As quick as any child tempted with a second bowl of ice cream or as any roach tempted with the remnants of the same, he lifted his younger sister back up and set her on the orange tiles.

Dorothy sucker punched him.

Timothy doubled over.

Smiling and sing-songing to herself as she shut the door to the house behind her and walked back into the family’s salon, Mom considered that the children had not yet, that morning, knocked over the towels on the umbrella clothes line and had not yet, all week, broken more than three of the smallest ceramic pots housing her succulent collection. As well, the family’s lizard was hazarding to sleep on the far corner of their patio’s ledge. All was good. All was in balance.

Such harmony allowed Mom to select between calling her neighbor, Alice, to complain about the price of bread at the local makolet or making and using an avocado and oatmeal mask. Sitting on the front stoop and smoking the last of her lady cigarettes was not an option since Mom anticipated only a few minutes of leisure. Maybe she could chew a cuticle or two.

The phone’s summons waylaid all of those ambitions. Sandra, whom Mom had thought was putting on the pudge, had, apparently, just given birth to twins.

Back on the mirpesset, Dorothy was flinging handful after handful of potting soil at Timothy. The new tilt of Mom’s geraniums was of no consequence to the little sister. She cared even less when she grabbed a Geranium sanguineum by the root ball and flung that at her brother, too.

Timothy palmed raven droppings. One piece made contact with Dorothy’s left elbow.

Dorothy screamed as loud as she had when Timothy had set her braids on fire and almost as shrilly as she had when Timothy had made and worn a necklace of her dolls’ heads. She ran for Mom.

The lizard woke, straddled his proportionately-sized motorbike and leapt from the family’s piazza. The raven, whose poo had gone ballistic, fluttered down to feast on the reptile’s subsequently splattered viscera.

Dorothy, all fretting and stomping, pulled at the cord that connected Mom to Alice’s gossip. The child yanked so hard that she disconnected Mom’s communication device from the wall.

Mom frowned a deep “v.”

In the Time Out Corner, Dorothy pealed even louder. She then gagged, shrieked again, and went suddenly silent. She had heard the splat of squamata on cement, but had mistaken the reverberation for that Timothy becoming vivisectioned.

Neighborhood dogs chorused, loudly. A siren sounded.

Mom tried to set the cord back into the wall with ill effect. There was more than twenty minutes until the school bus arrived. If she could reconnect, she could learn the identity of Window Sandra’s boy toy. All Alice had espoused, before their talk was severed, was the size of the young man’s biceps and the manner in which they bulged when he delivered canisters of water.

Mom subscribed to that particular delivery service but had never been serviced by that particular provider. She wanted to know if he might freelance as a babysitter.



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