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M&M World / Fiction

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Short story about a woman taking her daughters to M&M World in Times Square…

Ginny had promised to take the girls to M&M World, that ridiculous place in Times Square they had passed too often in a taxi, Maggie scooting to press her face to the glass to watch the giant smiling M&M scale the Empire State Building on the electronic billboard and wave from the spire, its color dissolving yellow, then blue, then red, then yellow again. She had promised. “Promised,” Olivia said, her face twisted into the expression she reserved for moments of betrayal. “Please,” Olivia whined. “You said ‘spring.’ ”

She had said “spring.” This she remembered, and it was spring, or almost. Spring enough. Spring advancing, the trees newly budded, the air peppery. Regardless, it felt too early to go home when the light shone this strongly, slanting across Central Park in the way of late March, early April; plus, the city had already collectively sprung forward. Spring has sprung, the grass has ris’.

All right,” she found herself saying. “Just once. Today. Just once. This is it.” Breaking her resolution to stop qualifying—five more minutes, this last page, one more bite—and wishing, mid-speech, she would stop. She has tried. Just as she has tried to be more easygoing, but when push comes to shove, as it always will, she is not easygoing. And she qualifies. It’s a verbal tic: first this and then that. A constant negotiation—action then reward, or promise of reward. What is it that the books say? Screw the books.

She takes the girls’ hands and holds tight, changing course, crossing Central Park West to Central Park South. The girls suddenly delighted, and delightful, straining ahead, buoyant. They are gorgeous, bright-eyed, brilliant girls: one tall, one short, pant legs dragging, torn leggings, sneakers that glow in the dark or light up with each step, boom boom boom. They break free and race across, bounding onto the sidewalk, their hands rejoined like paper cutouts, zigzagging here, zigzagging there, Maggie clutching Zoom Zoom with her free hand, choking the thing, its dangly legs and arms, its floppy, flattened ears.

Ginny follows them quickly, remembering how her heart would literally stop as Olivia—then, what? four? five?—would run to this same corner, the light not yet changed. Her daughter had only to step into traffic, to veer off the curb. She never did. Olivia climbed the stone seals at seal park in Chelsea, the bronze bears in the playground outside the Metropolitan Museum; she teetered on their heads and could so easily have slipped—she did slip, once, but it was nothing. Still, Ginny had to wake her every hour that night, shake her out of her sleepy fog. “Who am I?” Ginny had said, Olivia’s blue princess pajamas silky beneath her grip, Olivia’s shoulders so thin. “Mommy?” Olivia said, squinting, pupils the right size, shrinking: constricting or contracting, she never knew which, but, whatever, correctly—she was fine. And then, a bit older, those other sneakers—wheelies? heelies?—and Olivia careering along the sidewalk, wheels where the heels should be, the speed! And downhill, too, with nothing to hold on to, no way to stop. The pediatrician had said the most dangerous thing was trampolines, even with nets. And then the rented house that summer had one, netless, in the back yard. She had watched as the girls bounced higher and higher. She couldn’t get them off, Olivia and now Maggie, just like her big sister. She had stood vigil at the window, or next to the rail in her hat and long sleeves buttoned at the wrist, the girls slathered with sunscreen. The point is, her heart stuck in her throat, always in her throat.

Ginny hurries to catch up. One has tripped the other accidentally on purpose and now the other howls as if singed...

Продолжение читайте в журнале English4U №9 (сентябрь 2011) на который можно подписаться или купить здесь.

22 сентября 2011


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