Screaming Faces Made of Dots

A short story

Gustave Courbet, "Jo, the Beautiful Irish Girl," 1866

The night before the Twin Towers fell, my brother Phillip tried to remove my nose with an X-Acto knife. I was eight years old. Phillip was eleven. We were in the living room, where a glass auditorium of ceramic angels observed our every move. The angels had belonged to our mother’s best friend, Colleen, who died from a brain tumor two years earlier, just shy of the new millennium. Mom felt responsible for the tumor, which had quietly blossomed near Colleen’s ear, presumably where the telephone went on the many nights Mom called Colleen to complain about her life: how my father had dumped us in Kansas like a sack of newborn kittens, how every day she thought about packing up and leaving, heading back to New York City to reclaim him. She would drag him to the prairie by his earlobes, so he could suffer alongside us. Of course, all she ever really did was cry and call Colleen.

It was household knowledge that Colleen’s angels possessed psychic power. I once walked in on my mother Windexing their display case, whispering, “Hey, Colleen. How’s it going up there?” Ever so slightly, one of the figures rattled against the glass. Phillip said the angels were omniscient, that their ink-drop eyes held cameras whose footage went straight to the offices of God. I tried, mostly, not to look at them, but on this night, the night of September 10th, I could feel them watching us—tracking us. We weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. Phillip was cutting a piece of cardboard into the shape of a scimitar. I was coloring in my Lisa Frank coloring book. One moment, Phillip was focused on the task before him, his tongue pressed to the corner of his mouth, and the next he was looking up at me, a strange glint in his eyes. “You’ve got a fat nose for a little girl,” he said. “How about I fix it?” Like lightning, he was on me. An explosion of pain.

When I opened my eyes, the angels were staring at me. Are you getting this? I wondered, and imagined God standing before a monitor—or maybe a series of monitors, like NASA has in space movies—considering the image of my bleeding face. God would frown as he took up a yellow legal pad, where he would locate Phillip’s name and scribble something along the lines of: Cut lovely sister’s face. Hell forever? Thinking: yes.

I put my hands over my nose and, by the time Mom appeared, the blood was leaking between my fingers. She had given Phillip the knife, so that he would leave her alone while she balanced the checkbook.

After the hospital, where a female doctor quickly sealed my face with eleven tiny stitches—any deeper and the cut would have severed an artery—it was decided that I would spend the rest of the week with my father’s sister, Matilda, so as to have distance from Phillip. Perhaps my mother thought it would be a treat for me to stay with Matilda, who had acted off-Broadway before pursuing a career in poetry—or poverty, as the joke went—at Wichita State University. She was the most glamorous person I knew. She called anyone who owned a Lexus a motherfucker and instead of wearing perfume she would bisect a piece of fruit—a grape or a strawberry or a plum—and rub its juices onto her pulse points. When fruit flies followed her in the summer, my mother called her Pig-Pen. Matilda was also a lesbian and had spent several years dating a soybean farmer named Kathryn who, whenever I stayed at Matilda’s, would braid my hair into a fishtail and make smiley-face chocolate chip pancakes for dinner. But Matilda was also prone to breakdowns and had, on more than one occasion, pulled out a small tuft of her own hair because of something small as a burnt piece of toast. In her bathroom cabinet stood a row of orange and white bottles, which I was told never to touch.

The real reason I was sent to Matilda’s was that my mother had no idea how to punish Phillip without also punishing herself. The last time she’d tried to ground him (for tossing my gerbil Pumpkin into the dryer), he called my father to say he was being starved and beaten with a leather belt—lies that led to our father calling Phillip’s school and demanding that the nurse monitor his health and that the school social worker check in with my mother regularly. After this, my mother learned that it was easier to relocate the victim (namely, me), than to deal with whatever retaliation Phillip would inevitably formulate against her.

And so, the morning after the X-Acto knife, I watched as my mother smoothed Phillip’s cowlick and put on his gold-toes socks. At the breakfast table, she added sugar to his bowl of Rice Krispies, Hershey’s syrup to his glass of milk. Phillip always got whole milk and while I got the watery kind—skinny milk, Mom called it, explaining that growing boys needed more fat and girls needed less.

When the bus pulled up she took Phillip into a hug. “I love you,” she told him, “even when you make me dislike you.”

From the other side of the hug, he smiled at me. Wrinkled his nose.

The cherry pain medicine made me drowsy, and so I slept through the short car ride to Matilda’s. She lived on the top floor of an apartment complex that smelled of tomato soup and cigarettes. Since the break-up with Kathryn, her only company was a diabetic Chihuahua named Marsha Brady who required insulin shots twice a day. My mother said the whole set up was bohemian, which I knew was code for stupid.

Inside, my mother led me to the elevator, where I was to ascend on my own to Matilda’s apartment. “Remember, she’s in 466,” my mother said. Above us, a fluorescent light was polka-dotted with dead flies.

“You’re not coming up?”

“I’m late for work,” she said, although I knew, even then, that she did not want to talk to Matilda.

“When can I come home?”

“Once your nose is healed,” she said. We both understood that, until then, Phillip might try to mess with the stitches. With this, she carefully kissed me on the cheek and ushered me into the elevator. She pressed the number four and then stepped back, so that the doors closed upon her waving figure, the scent of her rosewater lotion lingering in the air.

The fourth floor smelled like mold and I could hear, somewhere, the sound of talk radio. When I knocked on 466, Matilda answered the door in a denim dress and black cowboy boots, costume pearls big as spearmint gumballs. “Where’s your mom?” she asked.

“She had to go to work.”

“Typical. Let’s see your face.” I held still as she took my face between her hands. “It was a matter of time before something like this happened,” she said. “Your brother is a sociopath, just like your father, and your father’s father, and probably all of the men who came before them.”

“What’s a sociopath?” I asked. I figured it had something to do with the sciences, picturing my father in a white lab coat, adding neon liquid to a bubbling beaker.

“Ask your mother,” Matilda said. “She loves them best.”

This was how it always went. What I knew about my father was gathered in pieces from overheard conversations. I knew that he had black hair and hazel eyes, because everyone said Phillip was his spitting image. I knew he had a sweet tooth, and a hard job, and a talent for making my mother cry. I knew that he lived in Manhattan, where he and my mother met and where I was born, and that he’d brought us to Kansas when I was just a baby, in order to take on a brief, high-paying job that involved the Coca-Cola brothers. When the job ended, it was decided that he would return to New York alone, so that we could be closer to Matilda, who would be more help raising us children than he ever could be. Plus, the private schools in Kansas were cheaper, the property taxes lower, the neighborhoods safer. He promised my mother that he would return often and, eventually, for good. The longer the promise went unfulfilled, the stronger my mother clung to it. She visited him twice a year: once in the summer and once in the winter. Sometimes Phillip went with her, but I always stayed behind in Kansas, with Matilda. I was born with a hole in my heart and, despite the doctors’ assurances, my mother feared it would reopen if I went on an airplane. My father regularly called and spoke to my mother and Phillip, but even then, it was hard to believe it was really him on the other end and not some anonymous trickster hired to keep up the charade. I figured one day I’d grow the courage to ask to speak to my father, but until then, I would just have to believe. He never asked to speak to me.

Matilda was going around her kitchen, trying to find something to give me. This was a tradition of hers. The last time I was over, she gifted me a coffee mug that said, Don’t even look at me until this is empty!!! It had belonged to farmer Kathryn.

“In a perfect world,” she was saying, rummaging through a drawer, “all the women would be separated from the men. We’d live on a tropical island, somewhere with lots of fruit and flowers, and the men would tear the mainland to shreds. We’d go back once they’d burned everything down and slaughtered one another, and then we’d start over. Rebuild. We’d have to keep a few men around, of course, for breeding purposes, but they’d live in a separate village, far away from the rest of us. How’s that sound for paradise?”

I didn’t know how to respond. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that women and men were all that different. Men had short hair and important jobs and didn’t know how to mop a floor. Women had long hair and boobs and were not supposed to eat as much as they wanted to.

“At least this is a man-free zone. What should we do on our little feminist island? Do you want to swim? We could go to the Y.”

This was another tradition of hers, to take me out into the world: to the zoo, the courthouse, the Aviation Museum. She had an idea that my mother kept me locked inside all day, which was not so far from the truth. Going into public with Phillip and me was too stressful—Phillip had a habit of touching everything he saw, and would sometimes say curse words very loud, just to be difficult.

I brought a hand to my nose and touched the bandage.

“What am I saying? You can’t swim with that face.” She traced her bottom lip, thinking. “How about we run a quick errand? I need a new lamp. Marsha Brady knocked the old one over.” She shot an exasperated look to Marsha Brady, who was sitting on the sofa, chewing her own tongue. “Afterwards, we can get some donut holes and see a movie. How’s that sound?”

“I’m supposed to go to school,” I said. My mother had given me a pass on the morning, since the pain meds made me drowsy, but I was expected in Mr. Jenkin’s classroom after lunch.

“I won’t tell if you don’t.” As she said this, she pulled a magenta Sharpie from the depths of a junk drawer. “You like pink?” she asked.

I nodded. Matilda was always giving me things—old band T-shirts, magnets from National Parks. Once, when I told her I liked her sandals, she removed them from her feet and handed them to me. “Here, they’re yours,” she said. We were at the library. After that, I learned not to say I liked anything—especially nothing on her body. I worried if I complimented her hair, she’d shave it from her head and gift it to me for Hanukkah.

She tossed the pink marker so that it hit me square in the chest. “Happy Stitches Day,” she said.

 

The antique store was on the west side, a part of town I’d only been to for dentist appointments and one month of gymnastics lessons that ended when a girl in my level flipped off the balance beam funny and landed the wrong way on her neck. We passed a series of rundown buildings where men sat slouched over, staring into Styrofoam cups. At a stoplight, a little girl stood holding the arm of a pink stuffed rabbit. She was older than me, too old for stuffed animals, but she looked tough, and for a moment our eyes met and she winked, as if to say, Think of all those other suckers in school right now.

Matilda eventually turned into a small drive between two stores, an ez-loan and dr. shapiro’s antiques and treasures. “This is us,” Matilda said. “Dr. Shapiro’s.”

“What kind of doctor is he?” For a moment I worried he might give me more stitches.

“Not the kind you’re thinking. He was my poetry professor, ages ago.” She turned off the car and checked her eye make-up in the rearview mirror. “At some point he was considered the poetic voice of the Midwest.”

“Why does he run a store now?”

She shrugged. “Nobody wants to buy poetry.”

Walking into Shapiro’s store was like walking into a junk drawer. There were wicker baskets full of pearl-handled knives and shoehorns the color of rotted teeth. On a bookshelf, a tiny clay man held onto his man-parts, which jutted violently from between his legs. By the front door stood a humongous grandfather clock, its gold pendulum swaying like the dangle at the back of a screaming throat.

Shapiro stood behind a desk at the front of the store. If it weren’t for his white beard, he would have looked exactly like a giant baby, with his flat, rosy nose and wrinkled head. Above him a sign read: you are being watched!!! Beside it, a small black and white monitor broadcasted a different part of the store in each corner.

“Matilda, Matilda,” Dr. Shapiro said. His voice was like salt pouring onto a metal tray.

Matilda hugged him carefully, as if he might shatter beneath her touch. I hid behind her as the two chatted, catching up, exchanging the names of people and books. Eventually I started pinching the skin behind Matilda’s knees.

She looked down at me. “What’s your deal?”

“He’s scary,” I whispered. I wanted to say that he looked like one of the rat-monsters from Phillip’s Nintendo game, but I didn’t want him to hear me.

She laughed. “Doll, you’ve got a lot more to be afraid of than a geriatric poet.”

“What’s that?” Shapiro said, cupping a hand behind his hairy pink ear.

“Nothing,” Matilda said. “We’re going to look around now. Wish us luck.”

“Luck,” Shapiro sang as we walked away.

Matilda led me up a spiral staircase to the store’s second floor, where Shapiro kept the lighting. Above us hung chandeliers with brass tentacles, glass bulbs big as fish bowls. On the floor marched an army of lamps. Matilda picked one up. “Of course there’s no bulbs in half of these. God knows if they actually work.” She looked down at me, perhaps realizing that this errand might be boring, her cool aunt status in jeopardy. “How about you go explore,” she said. “I’ll come find you when I’m done.”

I made my way to the back of the store, where I wandered through more aisles of lamps, pulling chains and singing a song we’d learned in music class. It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears. It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears. There’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware—it’s a small world after all!! Eventually I came to an alcove, inside of which sat a wicker rocking chair and a wall of bookshelves. I sat down and let the chair bring me forward and back, forward and back. Closing my eyes, I focused on the pressure of my nose, the shadow of searing pain. When I opened my eyes, I noticed a flat cardboard box underneath one of the bookshelves. In magic marker, someone had written: Hannah’s Things. This was my name: Hannah. My mother chose it because in the Torah, Hannah is favored by God, but I liked it because it was the same backwards as it was forwards—a word that could go on forever, back and forth, like a ping-pong ball.

I went over and slid the box from under the shelf. Inside was a stack of dusty photographs, most of them of an ugly woman and her ugly daughter. There were notes written on the backs of the photos, but the cursive was too cursive for me to read. What I could decipher were the names and dates. Bernice and Hannah. Summer, 1964. Winter 1966. Winter 1967. The little girl was fat and had grub worm eyebrows that connected in the center. In one photo, she and her mother were at a picnic. Chocolate cake was smeared across the little girl’s face, and her mother was laughing, holding a napkin to the girl’s mouth. She’s got a fat face for a little girl, I thought, taking the pink Sharpie from my pocket. First, I gave her a Hitler mustache. Next came a pair of devil-horns and a pitchfork. Then a speech bubble that read: oink oink! I’d learned this from Phillip, who had gone through his fifth-grade yearbook doodling on his least favorite classmates. When I was done, I capped the Sharpie and assessed my artwork. The mustache looked more like a thick-lipped smile, but it would have to do.

Also in the box were four pencils, a book called Planet News, a cluster of mouse turds, and a small satin bag. My heart thrummed as I imagined what was inside the bag: jewels the size of grapes, coins dating back to the time of Jesus. I undid the knotted drawstring and into my palm fell a snow-globe keychain, the plastic murky with age. Inside the globe was a huddle of skyscrapers and a Statue of Liberty no taller than a staple, her torch small enough to slip through the eye of a sewing needle.

I thought about the year before, when my father sent Phillip and me a box of Hanukkah presents. Phillip got a Nintendo and a Swiss Army Knife and a neon orange gun that shot foam pellets. I got a pair of princess pajamas that were two sizes too small and a stuffed bird keychain with national Audubon society stitched across its belly. My mother made a big fuss about the bird, saying, Isn’t it just the cutest thing? She clipped it to my backpack, but Phillip took it the very next day and tossed it into the toilet and flushed. It got stuck somewhere down the pipe and Mom had to call a plumber to come get it out with a snake. I never saw the snake, but imagined it biting the toy bird with clean white fangs, swallowing it whole.

Outside the alcove, Matilda was calling my name. I tightened my hold on the snow globe and then slipped it into my pocket. I had never stolen anything before, but I had an idea that the snow globe was meant to be mine—a consolation for the lost bird keychain—that it was a powerful artifact intended to pass from one Hannah to the next. That it had first belonged to the original Hannah, the one who was favored by God.

“There you are,” said Matilda. “You ready to jet? I found this thing for half off.” She held up a yellow lamp with a dark green shade. “You like it?”

I told her I did, although my entire mind was focused on my pocket. All the way down the stairs I repeated in my head: The globe is mine. The globe is mine.

Downstairs, Dr. Shapiro was not at the register. He was at the far end of the store, looking at a small television with big metal rabbit ears and a staticky screen. Matilda set the lamp on the front counter and went to him. “Shapiro?” she said. “We’re ready to check out.”

Outside, the day was becoming bright with sun. I was happy not to be in school, where we were learning about state capitals and how to tell time on a clock with hands. I wondered what Phillip was doing, if he was bragging to his friends about what he’d done to my face.

At the television, Matilda and Shapiro exchanged words I could not hear.

“Aunt Matilda?” I asked.

When she didn’t answer, I went over to them. They stood frozen, their shoulders nearly touching. “Are we going to a movie now?” I asked. Matilda grabbed my hand and pulled me close. On the TV screen, a building was burning.

“What happened?” I asked.

“We’re not sure,” she said. “The volume doesn’t work.” She turned to Shapiro, her hands shaking. “You keep a radio in all that junk?”

Shapiro was still fixed on the screen. The camera had zoomed in to capture people on the streets. Many of them were looking up. Some of them were running. A little dog—separated from its owner, leash trailing behind it—peed on a light pole. I reminded myself that each pixel stood for something real in the world. That every moving dot was a human, just like me.

Behind the front desk, Shapiro found a radio and turned up the dial. A man’s voice told us that twin planes had flown into twin towers. The voice went on to say that people were jumping from windows, to avoid burning to death. I imagined all those people cartwheeling toward the earth, their ties and scarves flapping wildly against their faces. Coins would fall from their pockets. I was so terrified that I giggled.

“Stop laughing,” Matilda said, and grabbed my arm with such force that I bit my tongue, the taste of iron flooding my mouth. Next came the tears. I was suddenly tired. My face hurt. I wanted someone to give me something—anything—to make the pain go away.

“I’m sorry,” Matilda said, and stooped down to smooth my hair. “It’s my fault. You shouldn’t be listening to this.”

As if in agreement, Shapiro clicked off the radio and placed it back behind the counter. “You’re from there, aren’t you?” he asked.

Matilda nodded. “My brother’s still there.” She gestured toward me. “Her father. He works—he works in those buildings. I forget which one.” For some reason, she touched two fingers to the lamp, as if to feel for its pulse.

It was then I noticed a jar of peppermints on the counter. “Can I have a mint?” I asked. They were the good kind—chocolate with green swirls.

Matilda looked at me as if I’d asked to run around naked singing Christmas carols. “She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “Hannah, we need to go home.”

“Her name is Hannah?” asked Shapiro.

Matilda looked down at me. “It is.”

“My daughter’s name was Hannah.” The way he said it—in the past tense, and with watery eyes—assured me that his daughter was dead, and that she had died in some catastrophic way: fire or flood or murder.

Matilda said nothing. She pulled me along, toward the door.

In the car, Matilda squeezed the steering wheel. I wondered if the game plan still involved donuts.

“Was my dad in that building?” I asked. The thought seemed ridiculous, as if someone had walked into my life and told me I was now a fairy princess and would be living out the rest of my life inside of a giant, enchanted watermelon.

“I don’t know,” she said. She looked over and gave me a funny look. Then she started the car.

As we drove, I put my hand in my pocket and felt for the snow globe, imagining tiny planes colliding into the tiny plastic towers. The little globe would rumble with the force of it. Then I thought of the photographs, of the mustache and the devil horns. It dawned on me: the name. Hannah. The snow globe had belonged to her—the same girl in the pictures. Shapiro’s daughter. And of course, Shapiro had seen me deface her pictures, steal her snow globe—he could see everything that happened in his store.

“I think I caused the crashes,” I told Matilda. The words fell heavy from my mouth. I knew it was true: by stealing the globe and making fun of Shapiro’s dead daughter, I had killed my father, and all the other people, too. I imagined the days that would follow, once the President discovered what I’d done: first jail, then a trial. My mother and Phillip would be there, and Phillip would undoubtedly rat me out, tell the jury how I was always ruining things, like when I went number one in my pants at Colleen’s funeral and we had to leave early so I could go back to the hotel and change. How we had missed the part where Colleen went into the ground. How my mom never really got to say goodbye to her friend. At the end of it all, I’d get the electric chair. A man dressed in black would put a cap on my head, pull a red lever and say, Sayonara, sucker. Justice is served. Everyone in America would applaud and away I’d go, forever and ever.

Matilda turned to me, sniffled. “What are you talking about?”

I took the snow globe from my pocket and held it up to her.

She squinted. “I don’t get it.”

“I stole it. And I messed with Dr. Shapiro’s pictures. I think he put a curse on me. On the world.”

“Oh, honey,” she said, and started to cry again. “He’s a pacifist. And anyways, you’re just a harmless thing. You’re nothing.” She put a hand on my cheek—her wrist smelled sour, like a rotten banana.

“Can we go back in?” I asked. “I want to return it.” I thought maybe if I returned it everything would rewind, go back to the moment before I found the box of Hannah’s things. The airplanes would reverse through the clouds, descend back to the airports where they came from. All those passengers would walk backward to the terminal. Pull bites of breakfast sandwiches and bagels from their mouths. Spit coffee back into cups. Unpack their toothpaste and underwear. Un-hug their families goodbye.

“I really need to make some phone calls, Hannah.”

“Please?”

“All right,” she said. “But be quick.”

 

Dr. Shapiro was sitting at his desk, reading a book. Matilda had asked to go with me, but I told her I wanted to go alone.

“Dr. Shapiro?” I said, my voice trembling.

He lifted his head and looked at me, his eyes yellow and red. I half expected him to haul a giant rat’s tail from beneath the desk, for his hands to morph into claws. “Did you forget something, dear?”

I put the snow globe on his desk, quickly, in case he tried to grab my arm. “I stole it,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

A smile flickered on his face. “That’s very honorable of you to bring it back.” A moment then passed in which I thought he might have fallen asleep, but then he said, his eyes closed, “I’m deeply sorry about your father. I hope he’s okay.”

“Thanks,” I said. I wanted to feel sad, but I didn’t. There was nothing to be sad about, really, except for maybe my face, and the fact that, eventually, I would have to go home and see Phillip, that I would have to sit and watch as Mom did his homework and served him SpaghettiOs, removed the four-leaf clovers from his Lucky Charms because he didn’t like the color green.

“You’ll remember this day when you’re older,” Shapiro was saying. “You’ll remember me, the store. All of it.”

“Because of the planes?”

“Yes,” he said. “Because of the planes.”

I didn’t exactly understand the fuss. I figured plane crashes were just things that happened, like brain tumors or tornados. I knew, for example, that in the year 1970, a small plane carrying the entire Wichita State Football team crashed into a mountain in Colorado, obliterating everyone on board. The coach’s grandson, a loud-mouthed boy in my grade named Ian, had to miss school for two whole days to attend ceremonies for the anniversary. When asked if he missed his grandpa, Ian would nod, his cheeks turning pink. I wondered if this was something people would ask me. Do you miss your father? they would ask. I don’t know, I would tell them. I never knew him. I liked the way it sounded—strange, dramatic. Something a movie star would say.

Without looking back, I slipped out into the parking lot, where Matilda was still in the car, staring off into the distance. When I was in with my seatbelt buckled she turned to me. “I’ve been thinking. No matter what happens, you need to know that your father is—was—a complicated person. And even if he didn’t show it, he loved you very much. Loves you very much.”

It was confusing, the way she kept switching from past tense to present tense, as if my father were a candle flickering in and out of life. “How come he never wanted to talk to me?”

“He has a busy job—a lot of people depend on him.”

“But he talked to Phillip.”

“Oh, honey—Phillip. Phillip is older than you. And he’s a boy.” Perhaps she saw I wasn’t buying this, that it wasn’t enough. “Okay. You want the truth?”

I nodded. Like anyone, I thought the truth would paint a more reasonable picture, that everything would suddenly make sense. Perhaps my father was allergic to little girls, and that when I turned eighteen he would finally be able to talk to me without his throat swelling, like what happened to the recess monitor at school when she got stung by a bee. Perhaps he’d been put under a curse and couldn’t leave New York, or else his heart, too, would explode into a thousand tiny pieces.

Matilda looked down at her lap, as if everything she needed to say was written there. “Your father didn’t want a family. Or maybe he did, at first, but then he wanted his own life back, but here was your mom, and you and Phillip—he’d made promises. And so instead of doing the right thing, he put you all in Kansas. In limbo. That way he gets to feel okay about himself and still have his own life.” She looked at me, pressed her lips together. “Your father isn’t a great person, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. There is nothing about you that is unlovable.” She put a hand on my cheek. Her fingers were trembling.

“Okay,” I said.

“Say it back to me, just like that. There is nothing about me that is unlovable.”

For some reason, I could only whisper it. “There is nothing about me that is unlovable.”

“Good girl,” she said, and then wiped her nose and started the car.

 

Back at the apartment, Matilda had sixteen missed calls. The third was from my father. Mattie, I’m safe, the message began. Matilda collapsed into the armchair where Marsha Brady lay snoring. They flew me to D.C. a couple days ago, to meet with a client, so I’m here now—not in the city. Samantha’s not picking up her phone. I think she’s afraid. Can you make sure her and Phillip know I’m okay? A pause. White noise. All right. Talk to you soon. Call me if you need to, but I may be busy for a few hours. Everything’s chaos, as you can imagine. Bye, now.

It took a moment to register this turn of events—not the fact that my father wasn’t dead, but that he was alive, that he was real and had been real this whole time. That his voice was high and nasally. That I had saved him by returning the snow globe to Dr. Shapiro, and yet still he had not said my name.

Matilda was in the armchair, a polka-dotted box of tissues in her lap. “Did you hear that, Hannah?” she asked, smiling through her tears.

I thought then about my nose, about the scar the doctor told me I would have. Scar tissue, she called it. It would be pink and sort of shiny, like chewed up bubble gum. She’d smiled at me with her big rabbit teeth, as if this were good news. Who wouldn’t want a chewed-up glob of bubble gum on her face? When I asked if it would really be there forever, she had nodded and told me this is what scar meant. Something that never goes away, even after it’s healed.

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