I never liked people getting in my face. Mom said, whenever she took me out in the stroller, some neighbor would always stop us, crouch down, and stick a finger in my tight pink fist. I growled, always. What a fierce little thing she is, my parents agreed.
I tried to be agreeable. Daddy taught me some torch songs and would set me up on the piano to sing for our guests. “Gee but it’s great/ after bein’ out late/ walking my baby back home…” I’d warble. When the strangers applauded, the sound startled me every time, and I would growl at all the people in the room, including my parents.
Later, my parents presented me with a Tiny Tears doll, perhaps to sweeten up my disposition. I took all its clothes off but I swear I never meant to make it cry.
Later still, in the first grade, I began to smile more and growl less. One day, the teacher was instructing us in her rules for celebrating Valentine’s Day. “We will make red paper hearts for each other. We will not skip over anyone. We will not play favorites.”
I already had a favorite, and after I cut out the red paper heart meant for him, I printed the words I Love You across it, although I knew nothing of love. How could I? I was six.
With a twinkle in her eye, the teacher said, “I see what you wrote there. Who is the card for?” I scowled but did not growl at her, and replied with as much dignity as I could, “It’s for my mother, of course.” I think it was the “of course” that got to her. Her face fell; she looked so disappointed.
At least she didn’t know about my collection of naked dolls, left crying on the shelf.
Cheryl Snell has recent stories in The Ilanot Review, The Drabble, Roi Fainéant, and The Café Irreal. Her books include novels and poetry and she is at work on a collection of micros.