Mindy was afraid her sister put spiders in her ear as she slept. She was afraid the spiders crawled inside the canal that led inside her. She was afraid one of the spiders was pregnant—baby spiders oozing from her ear like eight-legged lava. Mindy was afraid her father’s dead grandmother watched her as she slept. Mindy slept on this dead great-grandmother’s bed frame. Her mother had painted it, but Mindy could still feel the flowered design of the headboard with her fingers through the paint. Mindy was afraid these flowers brought her great-grandmother from the graveyard to her bedroom. Mindy was afraid her arms would fall off in her sleep unless she kept them at her sides. She often woke up with them broken off over her head. Mindy was afraid her bubble bath bottle was filled with poison. She filled the tub with clear water only and poured a portion of the bottle into a hole in the backyard every week. Her mother bought a new bottle each time it emptied. Mindy was afraid cauliflower was an animal and wouldn’t eat anything that came from the refrigerator when cauliflower was inside of it. Mindy was afraid the school bus seats were made from the skins of missing preschoolers. She wore long pants and shirts and gloves and her hair down over her neck so that her skin never touched the seats. Mindy was afraid that more than diseases were communicable skin to skin. Mindy was afraid she’d carry the missing preschoolers’ memories inside her. Mindy was afraid the school therapist was a criminal. She was afraid that all words that sounded alike—therapist and rapist—sounded alike for a reason.
Jennifer Gravley makes her way in Columbia, Missouri. She is a writer of sentences, a watcher of bad television, and a reference and instruction librarian. Her work has recently appeared in Still: The Journal and Poetry Northwest, among others.
Cover Photo by Liz West