by Teresa Carson
On my seventh birthday, my sister-in-law gave a soft beaming hippo to me.
Though I’d owned a doll or two, nothing ever felt mine-all-mine until he was in my arms.
When we were apart, even for a second, I couldn’t fully breathe.
Wherever he was, the ground was solid.
His presence kept the bleakness that chilled those rooms out of my heart.
He saved my heart.
Through him I believed there was something else.
Through him I believed someone could love me.
What made my brother Tommy hatch the plot? Neither he nor I recall—
maybe the sight of me releasing secrets into ever-attentive brown felt ears?
He kidnapped Herbie; scissored his ears, tongue, tail; stuffed him in the hamper of
After frantic hours of loss, I rescued him.
Mom missed the mark: “Your brother wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Tommy, pressed to her side, stuck out his tongue.
Pop had better things to worry about when he got home.
My other siblings pounced: “What do you have to cry about? You weren’t sent, like we
were, to the orphanage for years.”
And me? Did I find a hiding place big enough for sweet disfigured Herbie and me?
No, I already knew there wasn’t one.
No, while my face stared straight ahead, my hands did what they had to do:
shoved Herbie, head first, in the trash.