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Inspired by The Hissing of Summer Lawns by Joni Mitchell
Jack bought me the diamond broach and said he had never been so sure. The new house in the Hollywood Hills was made of windows and the brooch reflected off the glass, nearly blinding me. From the living room I could see the barbeques down in the valley, messy happy families with their useless cars, concrete driveways, musical hula hoops and kids. The blue dots from far-off pools reminded me of Jack’s eyes, the aquamarine eyes of a wolf. But it was the sound of our lawn, the hiss of sprinklers, that chilled me. That year Jack erected a barbed wire fence to keep the scum out, keep the Mansons away.
There were creeps all over the hills, riffraff moving in, Jack said, look at those VW vans.
Once Jack showed me how the barbs work, ran his fingertips over the fence and let the blood bloom on the tips. Five dripping tips, they almost looked like roses, as if he were handing me roses. You need help, I said. This was the only time I said it.
When he was away for business, those long, quiet, hot days, I danced behind our barbed wire fence. Latin drums beat hard inside my legs. I wondered about the houses behind us, who was staring down at me in the dark. The world had become too hard and too easy.
On the TV, black and white movies reminded me, there was never enough color in my life. Never the right amount of contrast. A childhood dog, a mother and father, like faded movies of a life washed out early. There was a diamond welded to my throat, and a rescue dog who looked as confused as I did, our street-dog reflections barking us right.
There were rooms in Jack’s house that nobody ever sat in. Many beds to sleep in alone. A small dark room of Chippendale. The dog asked why I turn out the lights, why I sat in the gloaming and stared at the winking lights below. I remembered the old man in front of the Hollywood sign, carrying a cup, wobbling on a cane, who told it to me straight. You’re what they call a trophy wife, he said. Get out of here, kid. I reminded the dog that those of us who were lucky enough to live up here on Blue Jay Way are fine until the sprinklers start hissing beneath our feet.
Meg Pokrass’s many books include The Dog Seated Next to Me (Pelekenesis, 2019)
Copyright 2020 Meg Pokrass