Red Confetti

(A flash piece/poem  I wrote that’s based on an experience I had in grade 4)

Slick with cherry chapstick, I leap onto the ice and weave through knots of skaters in lumpy parkas. Muscles pulse, ears sting, hair snaps — I breeze past like a winter gale. My skates, sharp as a falcon’s talon, slick as otters in water,  carve the ice into a lesioned hide.

Then I see her.

Smiling honey, she makes her entrance, one dainty step onto the rink, one liquid stroke in front of the other.  She glides like rain down a sunny window as a gaggle of girls trail behind her.

I dog them, keeping a safe distance. Their heads turn and their lips scrunch to their noses  but I pretend I don’t care and mouth the Madonna tune that’s cracking through the speakers, the same damn one I hear every single morning in the school hallways when I’m trying to read.

“Spaghetti legs!” they call and explode in laughter, high pitched giggles like metal on slate.

When they roll to the far end of the rink I bend down and whisper the secret order to my brother.  He nods in obedience and darts by, pumping his little legs side to side, each stroke like the rasp of a match. He coasts behind her, inches away. Slowly, slowly.

Their blades clang.

She falls hard.

A bundle of denim and black curls slide across the rink and bumps its edge.  As the music booms she rises like a newborn fawn. The ice shavings on her lashes look like dandruff and I want to flick them off. She hacks a kitten cough and spits out a tooth. Red confetti sprays the ice.

I should’ve felt bad.

Five years later I saw her again when I became an only child, when a headline in the town paper read, “Valedictorian of Grade Eight Class Struck by Van.”

In a rumpled dress I wilt by my brother’s closed coffin. On it lays a wreath of rubbery roses and a photo in a silver frame — a carefree boy, a smiling man-child with his first bout of acne. I inhale the honey stench of lilies and then she enters. She eyes the room, spots me, and wends her way through the black dresses and coffee cups. Hugging my limp body she says, “so sorry.”

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