After watching Harriet the Spy, Arlen and I were spies. We were spies on Saturday, sneaking around Fountain Square. Three-foot-something with ash-brown tangles, I hid behind concrete stairs watching the brown loafers stomp down.
Arlen’s browning summer face held still as she drew wobbled notes, observations of the passersby in a black and white marbled composition book that said “DO NOT READ!!!!”
With a handheld magnifying glass, we looked at a dead lizard up close, the ants crawling all over his scaly skin.
“Does it hurt him?” I asked my older sister.
“No, he’s already gone. See? His eyes are hollowed out.”
We took notes on who walked by the magic fountain, who threw a penny in to the algae-covered, blue crystal water and bird shit shrine.
One night, Arlen and I climbed out of our bunk beds past bedtime. Like sleuths, we crept on hands and knees across the carpeted floor of the hallway. I made a measured pace with my moves, inching closer. My knees hurt from the wiry carpet that made a slow rug burn on my skin.
“Stop,” I whispered, halting her back with a hand. I listened with a cupped hand to my ear, pulling back the fine hairs for maximum volume. The shouts were muffled by the drywall.
Arlen sat with her knees up, leaning against the wall. She pulled at my shoulder and whispered harsh: “Let’s go back!”
Shaking her arm off my shoulder, my eyes said no. I crawled to the edge of the hallway, the entry to the scene.
Dad sat at the round dining room table hunched over an empty glass. I focused on his thinning, light hair. Mom was taking off her work bag, moving piles of papers around. Her short, black haircut made her a business woman.
The shouting was loud. Dad slammed a hand down on the table after having waited up for her. Mom may have yelled back, explaining she had to stay late. Someone said the word “selfish.” Maybe someone was pissed about having to make dinner again. Maybe someone else wanted to be the breadwinner.
Throwing words across the table, I could hear my parents breaking like the glass cup I’d once dropped on the tile floor.
Swinging the door open, Mom left the apartment, the door slamming like a hit to my face. The rush of cold, night air came back to me before I saw her body leave the doorframe. I came out of hiding, inching into the space under the arc where I could be seen.
“Where’s mom going?” I yelled from my place, a six year old slump on the floor. Dad remained seated at the round table. He looked down to me, the unknown eavesdropper, pausing before saying: “I don’t know.”
I stood now, feet planted in the cheap carpet, staring at the gold metal door knob, putting the pieces together.
Annalise Mabe works in nonfiction, poetry, and comics while pursuing an MFA at the University of South Florida. Her work has been published in Crab Fat Literary magazine, has been featured in ZO’s Poetry Exposé, and is forthcoming in Cahoots magazine. She reads for Sweet Lit Magazine and is constantly crafting various pieces of her own. Like tapas, she likes to try everything. She lives in old Seminole Heights with her boyfriend, Kevin, and her cat, Moose.