Alexander Rabb CC
In a Narrow Place
Louisa tucked into me. I could feel her shoulder blade backed-up to my pounding heart. We stood at the far end of the gangway between the tenements. It was dusk. Louisa's mom would be calling us in soon. Mrs. Cho would be calling her cat, Mr. Taro. It was a small window of opportunity. I hoped that Mr. Taro would evade us. Our plan was open-ended at best, sloppy for sure.
But as we stood there in the growing shadows, I didn't want her body to lift from mine, and I didn't know what this growing feeling meant. Over Easter break, my mom caught Louisa and me making-up in the mirror. Our eye shadow was too heavy. Poised in front of the mirror, I had my hand resting on her heart. My mother sent Louisa home. She didn't look at me all during dinner of Easter leftover ham. Dad was gone per usual at the Italian-American Club. Technically, we all belonged, but it seemed to be mostly a dad thing.
"Look, there he is," Louisa said. "Under the peonies like a guardian of the sinners."
According to Louisa, a person that spread lies was the worst kind of demon sent to ensnare the innocent. I wished I got to read the books she had. Where was she getting this stuff? I'd have to ask her to borrow her latest read. We slipped around the full trashcans and down the tight garden path. It was a friggin' miracle. Louisa had swooped up the fat Mr. Taro and without a sound. What happened next was fast. Mr. Taro scratched Louisa's arms. She bit her lip so as not to scream. She secured her grip and wrestled with Mr. Taro to the paved path. The peonies rustled, then there was a snap. A sick, thick sound so deep you could feel it in your ears and at the back of your throat.
Mr. Taro released a torrent of screams. It was immediately identifiable as a call for help, one of injury. Louisa released Mr. Taro and grabbed me by the arm. We ran two blocks to the corner of Cass and 6th Ave. I think we stopped because Louisa had to vomit. She settled on the man cover and kept running her hands over her thighs to remove the feeling of Mr. Taro's leg breaking from her palms. The plan had been to capture Mr. Taro and hide him for a few days to make Mrs. Cho suffer. Last week, Mrs. Cho told Louisa's mother that she had caught Louisa talking to a car full of young men. We were 14-years-old, so this was pretty scandalous. I, for one, was glad that Mrs. Cho snitched. I didn't want Louisa hanging around those older boys. The boys seemed too happy to see her. I hung back on the sidewalk, clearly not interested or interesting.
We had to go home, but re-entry was going to be difficult with her scratches and the number of people that must have answered Mr. Taro and Mrs. Cho's cries. We walked back to the tenement rehearsing the story of Louisa's wounds. They clearly looked like cat scratches, but she was going to try and sell it as she fell. I was the witness, that part was true, I was the witness. People were milling about with nothing better to do on a warm spring Friday night. The women on the front walk were already growing tired of the little drama, and they began trading stories of their detached husbands. We stood at the front of the gangway, blending in. We maneuvered ourselves to the scene of the crime. We stood at the back of the gangway now. People and fireflies hovered in the yard. These people had not grown tired of Mr. Taro's tale. They produced theories of hawks. Louisa once more pressed close to me. Her body was damp, and her breath was terrible, but I didn't care. We were in a narrow place. I felt closer to home than in my parent's house. I was warm in the comfort and proximity of our shared lie.
Leah Holbrook Sackett is an adjunct lecturer in the English department at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, where she also earned her M.F.A. Her short stories explore journeys toward autonomy and the boundaries placed on the individual by society, family, and self. She has published short stories in several journals including Connotation Press, Blacktop Passages, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Writing Disorder, Crack the Spine, and more. Visit her website for more LeahHolbrookSackett.com.
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