Cleo by Velma Barber
Outside the window, Cleo’s uncle stalked to the corner of the yard to stand beneath the phone pole and look up, hands on hips, ranting. Cleo grabbed her father’s handgun from the dusty windowsill and ran to hide it between her mattresses.
When she returned to the window, Uncle Bobby was still out there waving his hands and yelling at the brown-skinned cable guy on the pole. Cleo stared through the glass, images blurred by a filter of dead bugs, bird poop, pollution particles.
The man on the pole cut and moved wires without bothering to look down at her screaming uncle. That impressed Cleo, seeing a man who could take insult and mind his own business. Then she noticed the ear buds and his moving mouth. Maybe the man couldn’t hear her uncle threatening to blow his “stupid fucking head off.”
Uncle Bobby threw up his hands, yelled, “Fuck you!” and turned toward the house.
Cleo dropped into the chair whipping her face back to the school-issued laptop screen. Words raced before her eyes. Her heart fluttered.
The front door opened and slammed shut. Cleo peered up, keeping her head down.
“Did you hear me giving it to that sonuvabitch out there?” her uncle asked. “I heard him talking on his phone, saying he supported the stay-at-home order.” He reached into the corner cupboard, his sweaty T shirt riding up over the little bulge growing around his middle. “What a dumbass. We oughta kick out all the foreigners. That would solve 99% of our problems. Get real Americans back to work and back to normal life. This CO-VID shit is a liberal hoax.” He moved a few cans around, muttering, “Damn!”
“What are you looking for?” Cleo asked. She glanced out the window. The cable man descended the pole.
“I’m looking for my damned peas and carrots,” her uncle barked.
“I think daddy ate them,” Cleo said. The man outside climbed into his white van.
“He knows those are my favorite!” Her uncle slammed the cupboard door. “He’s been taking my shit since we were kids. I’m gonna kill him when he gets home.” He stalked to the bathroom, the door cracking shut against the frame.
Outside, tail lights lit up and the van moved into the street, diminishing in size as it travelled up the block, shrinking the threat of violence, the distraction of warranted worry.
Cleo's breath calmed and she returned to the Civics assignment: Read a news article related to how any level of US government is responding to the current pandemic; write a one sentence summary of the article; write three relevant questions related to the article and include answers.
She opened a fresh document and tapped the keyboard with efficiency, accuracy.
The first lady of Maryland has been instrumental in securing coronavirus tests for her state.
1. What is the first lady’s profession? (Artist)
2. Could this first lady be governor some day? (Yes)
3. If a girl who grew up on a chicken farm in South Korea can become the first lady of Maryland, could someone like me possibly escape this hellhole? (Maybe)
The toilet flushed.
Cleo ran to collect the gun and put it back on the windowsill.
With any luck, when her father returned from work to face his brother’s wrath, one of them would take a bullet and the other would end up back in jail.
Didn’t matter who shot who, as long as they were both out of her life.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity