Write about a word that makes you squirm


* * *

A children’s dentist in a little upstate New York city. A room on the second floor of an old house, light filtering in through large paned windows. A fish tank burbling in the corner, orange and blue and yellow fish darting in and out of the windows of a small castle.

A white dental chair and a gentle man with metal instruments that feel cool and soft in your mouth.

A basket of unpainted, blank-eyed, plaster-cast figurines. The post-dentist-visit treat to take home and paint.

“Which one do you want, Alison?”

You point.

“The angel.”

* * *

The neutral living room of a man reputed to diagnose the undiagnosed and heal them with psychic surgery. You are there with a friend in need of healing. You, interested, sit in the corner and listen and absorb the man’s changing face as he half-closes his eyes and tunes in to your friend’s malady.

But the man suddenly turns to you.

“I can’t ignore them,” he says. “Are you aware of them?”

You don’t know what he’s talking about.

“Angels,” he says. “Your guardian angels. There’s one on either side of you.”

He shakes his head.

“I can’t believe how beautiful they are,” he says. “Tall and yellow-green, rising like smoke.”

* * *

A hair salon in south Minneapolis. The calm and graceful woman who has been cutting your hair for eighteen years. You know secrets about each other.

You remember a look on her face once, long ago. You knew that what you both suspected was going to happen must have happened.

Another time, you sat down in the twirly chair and she stood behind you, lifting your hair and studying your face. Then, suddenly, her hands came down on either side of you and she held your shoulders and kept holding them. She said nothing and neither did you, while you fought to keep the tears back.

Now she is getting married again.

“Tell me again what day the wedding is?” you ask, and she tells you.

“And what exact time is it?” you say, and she tells you that too.

But she intuits what you’re thinking and she tells you that it’s a one-hour time difference, so be sure to factor that in.

“Bring in the angels,” she whispers in your ear as you hug her goodbye. “I want them all gathered around.”

* * *

Walk into your house to see your youthful companion bent over her biology textbook at the dining table. Watch as she mumbles long biology words to herself, prepping for a test tomorrow.

“Help,” you say. “I have to write about a word I don’t like. And I really don’t like the word I picked.”

“Don’t do it then,” she says.

She lifts her dark eyes from the notes strewn around the table and flashes her white grin.

“Write about me instead,” she says. “After all, I’m your youngest angel.”

* * *

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