by Meg Pokrass

It was the second day of the Palm Springs vacation with my sister Helen and her boyfriend Ron. Helen had already taken ownership of the air-conditioned bedroom complaining of cramps. I was fifteen years younger than Helen who was nearing thirty. Her bedroom door was locked, and I could hear the AC blasting.

Ron and I watched Animal Planet. He sat on the couch, I sat on the floor. I fanned myself with my sun hat. We laughed at the faces of parrots – the way they looked so confused.

Snack food and juice in the refrigerator. I thought of carrying out napkins, chips and salsa – serving him. I didn’t know how to be around men, not having a father or brother. They were usually in need of something and I would never know what. As a child, I might be running around, pouncing. That would be fun – attacking Ron.

That first night when they fought and I heard Helen call him a bastard and Ron call her a psycho – I slept on the couch where it was fairly calm. Still, I only slept two hours.

Mainly, I sat in the living room room, drawing my feet. I loved them. They were small, size six.

“I sleep with a snake,” I heard Helen say in her low voice. Maybe I misheard.

At home, I slept with the cat.

I thought Ron looked tired, and Helen was taking diet pills again. I imagined her dead – what mother would say and if we would somehow die also.

I wanted to sleep next to him. She hated him, anyway. The idea went straight into my stomach and pinched. I reached for his beer bottle to sip from. He made a sound of disapproval when I wrapped my lips around it. Said, “uh oh.”

I wanted him to see my new breasts, really nothing else. He would say if they were nice. If they were okay.

“Ready to swim!” I said. This was true. There were tiny beads of sweat on my neck and brow.

“Hey, your sis is probably asleep. That pool sounds good.”

“Yeah, out then, ” I said.

I was going swimming, a normal impulse, and Ron could follow. Free country. I had my bikini under my clothes, threw the dress off over my head. He grabbed his towel, and through the door, I could feel his eyes on the parts of my skin which were sunburned and peeling.

“Hush little baby,” I said to myself.

Outside, the pool was shimmering, and the world, with Ron trailing behind me – felt overcooked.

Meg Pokrass is the author of “Damn Sure Right” (Press 53 ) and serves as Editor-at-Large for BLIP Magazine (formerly Mississippi Review) and before that, for SmokeLong Quarterly. Her stories, poems, and flash fiction animations have appeared in nearly one hundred online and print publications. Meg lives with her small family and seven animals in San Francisco, website at


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