Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden Read Online (FREE)
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A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
While the material in this book comprises extensive research, interview content, photographs, and journals, much of it is based on memory, which is discrete, impressionable, and shaped by the body inside of which it lives.
For instance: the women. From the television commercial that’s been looping for as long as I can remember, featuring the first song I ever memorized. In the commercial, white women in lime-green bikinis walk barefoot and elegant across the smooth deck of a yacht. Their steps have bounce to them; their thongs are amazing. The women flip their hair at the sun, and beads of seawater drip onto their shoulders, down the creases between their breasts. The droplets roll and glitter over their bodies like mercury from a smashed thermometer. A man sings: “Naturally you’re lookin’ good, you look just like you dreamed you would! You’re having fun, you’re at your best, and all it took was Just One Look! Florida Center for Cosmetic Surgery: just one look is worth a thousand words!” His girls are so pleased to be beautiful, his.
When I grow up, after I leave this town, I tuck in alone at night, listen to the garbage trucks lift and crash their arms through the New York freeze. I sip lukewarm water from a clay mug on my nightstand. Three A.M.—bewitched. Just last week, I had a father. He used to say, Sleep, child, need that beauty sleep. No child of mine could be so afraid of sleep. He called me pretty then. Now he is dust—some teeth—a copper urn on my bookshelf, polished.
My hands—they are never not shaking. I press them under my body. Breathe into my pillow until the world goes vague. When I drift off, it’s the women who come first. It’s the women wearing their happiness in a film of sweat, the honor of their position. And then it’s me, a child. A girl pressing her hands against a television screen. She feels the women thrill through the static. She doesn’t move. She stays like this until she hears him again, that little man on his boat, always there, still singing.
THE FEELS OF LOVE
My mother rescued a mannequin from the J. C. Penney dump when I was two years old. He was a full-bodied jewelry mannequin: fancy, distinguished. Those were the words she used. Her father, my grandfather, worked the counter day and night, slinked antique chains and strands of jade across velvet placemats, and felt the mannequin did no work for his numbers; he’s pau—done. Grandfather said this with both elbows bent, a chopping motion. The mannequin would have to go.
In this part of the story, my mother and I live alone in Coconut Grove, Florida. We’re in a canary-yellow apartment damned with beanbag ashtrays, field mice, the guts of flashlights and remote controls (Where have all the batteries gone? Where do they go?), and a shag carpet that feels sharp all the way under the shag. She’s single, my mother, the crimson-mouthed mistress of my father, a white man, who is back home in downtown Miami with his artist wife, his two handsome boys. Soon, my father will move my mother and me into a porn director’s apartment, and then to Boca Raton—the Rat’s Mouth—to start over, but none of us knows this yet.