by  Ivy Berchuck

I scrape my toenails against the cool sheets and listen to the sound. It is the only sound in the room, and it makes me feel cool like the sheets. I keep on scraping my toes, because there isn’t anything else to do. Outside I’d be busy with games and school and fooling around down at the corner lot, but I haven’t been there for a long time.

And this morning, because the doctor said to, they took all my books away. I think it was this morning, but I’m not sure. The doctor smelled like the square bag he carried and he unbuttoned my pajamas and said, “And how are you this morning?”

Does he expect an answer? It hurts my throat too much to say anything. And now he has that cold metal piece on my chest, and the wires are coming out of his ears, and I breathe in and out because he says to. The room isn’t right side up, I think, but that is silly so I won’t say anything. “Keep breathing,” he says, patting my back, but I didn’t know that I had stopped.

The wallpaper glares at me. It has little lambs and they are dancing around a maypole. “I am too old for this paper,” I try to say, but only a gurgling sound comes out. I think about the new wallpaper I’d choose, while that cold metallic coin presses against my chest.

I want to tell the doctor that I don’t name the lambkins anymore. I touch his hand near the place where a wisp of hair peeks from the cuff of his shirtsleeve.

“I can almost do multiplication.” He smiles and says, “That is really splendid.” He doesn’t care, I think, and I look back at the lambs. Now they are upside down, the lambs are upside down and I feel so dizzy. I’m sure that’s the right word, dizzy, but I’m not going to tell him because he didn’t care about the multiplication.

And then I hear him tell my mother, “Keep up with the fluids” and I know that the fluids are juices that aren’t cold and trickle down the throat softly. He pinches me on the cheek like I knew he would do, but I am too busy to escape his reaching fingers.

When they walk out of the room he says again that there better be no more reading and the blinds should be drawn, but I know that the blinds can’t chase away all of the sun. He wants to lock me away like the English did to the little princes in the Tower of London, but the sun creeps through the spaces in the blinds and plays on the ceiling in little slanty lines. The lines come everyday, just as they are doing now.

I can hear my mother in the kitchen. The pots are clanging and she must be making supper. I know it is supper, because the lines on the ceiling are moving away from the window getting ready to disappear for the day. I won’t be eating with my mother and father and Mark, but she will feed me in bed with a funny, curved spoon that holds the food so it won’t spill. Then the room will be quiet again, but she might tell me a story or sing one of the songs she likes from when she was a girl during the great world war. My favorite is “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag.” If I try to sing with her, she says I sound like the Billy Goats Gruff. It is spooky to lose my voice before I even start.

I look over to the porcelain tabletop where the bottles are standing. The medicines are for every four hours, even at night which is silly because it is better to sleep than to taste the burning liquids. Sleep is better than anything. I leave the room and I’m back in the schoolyard, playing jump rope with the old frayed washline. I wait my turn to jump. The rope goes around fast, slapping the concrete pavement, and I jump in: onesie, twosie… .

In the kitchen, my mother cooks, and I scrape my toes against the sheet. The slanty sun lines are gone from the ceiling, I’ll eat from the funny spoon and listen to her song and go to sleep, and tomorrow the doctor will come again.

Ivy Berchuck: I have been writing short memoirs on and off all my life. Thanks to Carmen and Leyla’s writing class at IRP it is now a more consistent effort bringing me unusual pleasure and self-awareness. I now seem to be remembering more than I am forgetting