by Erin Fitzgerald
The light is gone. Twenty-five years later, the Colonel looks down from Alice’s bedroom window onto the North Lawn. She is kneeling over a freshly dug hole in the last of the February sun. His vision and the chalky light make her outline blur. But he knows what Alice is doing, because Edith mentioned it at breakfast.
“All of your daughter’s prattle lately has been about voodoo and hoodoo on Will and Nellie,” she’d said, dabbing her lips with a napkin before tossing it on the tray. “I certainly don’t wish to know more about it.”
He watches Alice takes a small doll out of her coat pocket. The doll is naked, made of white muslin, with an angry smeared mouth and a cursory tuft of woolen yellow hair. But he has no doubt that if the Creole recipes had required Alice to bury one of the dolls from her own youth, she would have done so without a second thought.
The Colonel adjusts his pince-nez so that he can see Alice more clearly, as if that will help him understand. Her costumes, that smoking, those swimming pool antics. And her ridiculous pet snake, which was no doubt in a dark corner of the room right now, just waiting to strike. He thinks about summoning the girl’s husband, who might stand a slight chance of putting an end to this particular nonsense.
Instead, he watches Alice push the pale blonde doll into the center of the new hole in the lawn. When he returned to New York after the ranch in the Dakotas went bust, he had tried to kiss his sister Bamie hello. But she had pointed down the hall to the nursery, first. Then, too, Alice had been so absorbed in tending to her doll that she never noticed her father standing over her.
It is only as the sunset fades her from view that the Colonel rests his brow against the glass. Alice has always tended the shadows from the darkness he casts overhead.
Erin Fitzgerald’s stories have appeared in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, PANK, wigleaf, and other fine literary journals. Her chapbook “This Morning Will Be Different” is in the anthology Shut Up/Look Pretty (Tiny Hardcore Press). She is lead editor at The Northville Review and lives at rarelylikable.com.
* thanks to Amber Sparks and Brian Carr for their editorial work on this project.