Doing It In Your Head
by Terry Adams
This candidate for stepsister,
Sherry, is playing arithmetic games with the son’s father
in the dining room with the potential stepmother
Fifteen plus eighty six? Dad asks.
Sherry flops her shoulders forward,
opens her mouth, squints her eyes,
and tilts her head way back until she looks
like a birdbath.
Suddenly dad turns to son, who is staring at Sherry,
expecting an answer.
Son stammers ninety nine.
Dad is visibly embarrassed with son, potential stepmom decides
the cookies are ready. Sherry stops being
a birdbath and says no,
a hundred and one.
son folds himself backward at the neck,
opens his mouth like a birdbath
thinking he’ll get the answer that way,
and dad backhands him off his chair for making fun of Sherry.
Later Sherry explains to her possible stepbrother
how she says the numbers out loud in her head,
and she’ll show him how to kiss, too,
if he’ll come out in the hallway after everyone
is asleep. In the hallway she asks if he has been saying
numbers in his head the way she showed him.
The son says yes.
She says: kissing is the same thing except you say mmm,
mmm instead of numbers, you squint
your mouth instead of your eyes,
and you don’t tilt back
quite as far.
Terry Adams has poems in Poetry (Chicago), Ironwood, The Sun, Witness, Bellowing Ark, etc. My book is Adam’s Ribs, from Off The Grid Press, in Weld, Maine. I restored and live in Ken Kesey’s infamous cabin in La Honda, California, and right now I am very thankful for the RAIN!