Andrea Kneeland

When Francine’s parents move, she doesn’t know where to hide. All of her secret spots are stolen from her, left behind in some distant geography. Her new room has a closet, but the closet is very different than her old hiding closet. The door to this closet does not slide open; it has a normal handle, like any other door to a room, and the idea of opening it frightens Francine. The idea of opening it does not frighten her as much as the idea of continuing to sit in the corner, vulnerable, as her parent’s voices tear through the hallways like unbanded spirirts, dangerous and loud. So she hides herself in the new closet and immediately collapses to the floor.

Light slivers in beneath the door, but the easiest way to explore is with her fingers. She feels along the dimpled walls, their empty Braille, the slats of hardwood floor. Presently, her tiny fingers sink inside a widened pace between two slats of floorboard. Almost involuntarily, these fingers curl and press upward. The floorboard pops away. Buried there, in her new secret spot, she finds a stack of photographs. Francine pulls them from their grave and clutches them to her chest. They feel like a thick stack of cards; she thinks of Go Fish.

She scoots across the floor, toward the space beneath the closet door, sliding on her belly, until her cheek is pressed against the hardwood, as close to the sliver of light as her eyes can get. She can just barely see the pictures in the polaroids and she feels excited, like she is in a movie house.

The first picture is a man on a horse. After that, a dog. After that, a family. She thinks that the daddy in the family is the same as the man on the horse. She wonders if the daddy is a cowboy. More pictures of the dog. Next, she sees a picture of a little girl. The little girl is pale and washed out. Her face looks gray and her hair looks like mouse fur. The little girl was not in the family photograph. The little girl is in the next photograph, also gray, her eyes widened like saucers. She is naked and Francine wonders if it is her bathtime. Francine names the little girl Mary, because Mary is the girl at her preschool who likes to take her clothes off and make the teachers yell. And in the next photograph, Francine feels smart because there: the girl is in the bathtub.

But in the next photograph, Francine’s confidence begins to falter. The little girl is still in the bathtub, but there is no water in the bathtub. Instead, the bathtub is lined with splotches of red. The little girl’s neck is parted open like a skinned knee, blood seeping everywhere. And then a red line is drawn up through her chest. The little girl’s eyes are still opened and saucered.

Francine learns what ribs looks like. Francine learns what muscle looks like. Francine learns what her insides look like.

There are more photographs like this. Francine wants to go home.

Andrea Kneeland’s bio appears with her story, “Two Sundays Ago Right Before We Met Up With Those Two Sailors On Our Way To The Pizza Place.”