Her Sewn-Mouth Becomes Mine | Teen Ink

Her Sewn-Mouth Becomes Mine

January 8, 2022
By isabellafolch, Westchester, New York
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isabellafolch, Westchester, New York
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Author's note:

Included in this piece are several allusions to blood, which is coded as "red ribbon," and mosquitos or gnats, which are coded as "noseeums." Dive into this novel to understand how those two entities tie into the death of the protagonists mother, and whether or not the protagonist would be smudged a'flat like a "nosseum."  

(TW: mentions sexual and physical abuse, and details blood/gore)

Death: one syllable, three consonants, constructed of letters from only the beginning of the alphabet, though denoting the end of something as precious as a life. How could one word invite so much pain and grief? How could one word describe the abrupt, peaceful, or desired end to one’s life? Mama died when I was just four years old. Knowing nothing more than my own middle name, I could not grasp her absence. Father told me it was temporary and that we would soon meet again, but inevitably that “temporary” time became elastic; it has stretched on for more than ten years. Every Sunday morning Mama would serve biscuits and gravy, prepare my sister and I for Sunday-session at the chapel, and string my hair into a bow. It was not long before I took on that role, stringing my sister’s locks into a bow, and preparing her recipes. It was not long until I became Mama—at least that is what Father told me.

Father, following Mama’s death, had little to do with my sister and I; he worked a double shift at the nearby diner and would invite himself to the Emerald Casino on Friday nights for “bingo.” Slots were more in his wheelhouse, but those fibs would slide right under Mama’s belt. Lay low, fly under the radar, and let fibbers fib was her motto. I guess that is one of the character traits I did not adopt from her; her ability to let fibbers fib. “Testy” is the word Father spews at me come time for me to defend myself or my sister in an argument; regardless of the end point, he would always win. Not because he was right, but because he was Father. I caught onto him, but I played his game simply to humor his emptiness; after all, if I were not like Mother, who would he have left?

Mama wasn’t necessarily the breadwinner, however Father wasn’t either. We grew up in the slums of Po-boy, Georgia where food stamps and hand me downs were luxury goods. Money, or lack thereof, was a constant topic of banter between Mama and Father; she would run off to her studio—a hole in the wall behind our garage—and Father would chase after her, trailing behind bitterness and resentment. Part of me, even at the age of four, understood that Mama was not loved. That she was more of a burden for Father than she was a wife, mother, or lover. Often Mama would return from her studio with red hand-prints on her forearm, and a thick mucus stringing from her nose; she would wipe away her tears before I or my sister would notice.

Part of me feared the death of my mother, not only because of her absence, but because Father’s anger would have to be channeled elsewhere. Surely the eldest, strawberry blonde with curls as kinky as mothers, would humor his anger. Would I become the new Mama? Would her faults become mine? Would her sorrow take shape as tear-marks on my own pillow? Would her chapped hands, cherry cheeks, and contused thighs take on a new life in mine?

Every so often as an “after school treat,” Mama would take my sister and I to the local grocery store to purchase her favorite accessory of all: red ribbons. Of course she would tie them into little bows in our hair, however she would save a large portion of that ribbon for her own entertainment as well. The only time I saw her wearing them was late at night, when she would sneak out of her bedroom and creak the living room door open to ensure my slumber. It was quite peculiar, I must admit, that she was so enthralled by the red ribbons. Not purple, not blue, and not even silver or gold on the Holidays; always red. Perhaps she was using them in ways I and my sister did not understand, or for one of her very many art projects which we were rarely permitted to see.

After Mama’s death, all red ribbons vanished; none in the nearby grocery store, none leftover as tinsel for Holiday decorations, and none hanging in shredded pieces from my sister’s pigtails. Is it possible that Mama used up all of the red ribbon in the entire world? After all, she was the only one that made red ribbon a part of herself; cracked and patterned along her sunken eyes, threaded from her chin to her thighs…..an entity that was more than decor….it was like bodily fluid.

It was not until my 14th birthday, the third of June 1996, that the red ribbon made its return. Stringing from the bottom of my thighs to the tips of my toes was a shiny-red “fabric,” which resembled the boots Dorothy would tap together in order to follow the yellow brick road—minus the sequence. After a mid-life crisis of sorts, Father told me that this would return every month for the rest of my life. … one week a month where I am virtually on the verge of death…sounds like a blast.

“Red ribbon,” father hummed, “time to lace that red ribbon, time to tie it in a bow.”

“Red ribbon,” father hummed, “time to lace that red ribbon, time to tie it in a bow.”

He repeated, tapping his toes and flaring his fingers. It was not until the present that I understood what that tune meant; just seconds later he would grab me by the waist and vacuum my thighs with his stale lips. Perhaps this was a lullaby which he used to sing to Mama: just let things slide by, let fibbers fib, Mama used to tell me. Is this what she wanted to happen to me? Was her advice a subtle set up for manipulation of my innocence? Father said my red ribbon week of each month was a sign from Mama to allow him to hum, seduce, and take advantage of me; but is this what Mama truly wanted for me?

Mama always used to predict the weather; if it was about to rain, she would feel a twinge in her back, and if the sun was supposed to peek through the clouds, then the knobs of her knees would rattle. It was her “super power.” Her eyes were as dark as a forest, as far as a fern, yet she still managed to become one with the weather, and show my sister and I that mothers like her held the world in the palm of their hands. Despite her grace and intelligence, she was always knocked down a pedestal around father; not even a chain of the 171,146 words in the alphabet could justify his cunning attitude and disapproving nature. Sharp and jagged as a serrated knife, Father would ensure that he was boss; no woman would steal his thunder, even if it meant physical or verbal abuse to enforce that message. I suppose that is why Mama was so hesitant to showcase her artwork; hidden in the pit of her studio was thousands of minor paintings, most of which I, nor father, nor my sister had yet to see. “Hidden treasures” are what Father called those paintings, though don’t be fooled, he used that term for myself and my sister when we were “digging for gold”—perpetual mocking was his favorite pastime.

Coming of age with or without a mother entails all sorts of issues. Supposedly Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are fraudulent myths, however I already partially knew that; Mama, though always adamant about Saint Nicholas’s presence, was never a master at hiding gifts. On Christmas morning, exactly two a.m, I snuck down the stairs only to find Mama laying out the gifts beneath the tree; being ripely three years of age and overly observant, I could not mistake her Sherlock curls and stringing red ribbon for Ms. Clause, whose hair was supposed to be frostbitten, and tummy demanding for sugary snacks.

After that coming to that conclusion bitterly, my friend Ross, a whiz at both science and math, detailed a forbidden word; “s e x” he spelled out gingerly, which describes how babies are made. At first I dispelled that word, however as I grew older and I developed my monthly red-ribbon, I came to realize that the stork myth was only half real. Babies could be delivered on doorsteps, but only after sex. You also learn about the “real-world” issues that illustrate the degradation of our planet; global heating? No, global warming? No, climate change, yes that is it. Mrs. Luby, my science teacher, said that eventually we will emit such an overbearing amount of heat-trapping gasses that the entire atmosphere—the stratosphere, lithosphere, and all above and below—will become one large thermal dome. She also discussed over-population, and urged us that some theory made in ancient-times—more like the 19th century, but still, that was like eons ago— detailed an inevitable population crash after we exceed the carrying capacity of human life on earth. She labeled it the “Malthus” theory, but I couldn’t help but call it the “mouthy” theory; everyone just wishes to blab about doomsday, so much so that teenagers like myself can’t even live our lives.

Mental health is yet another topic you become acquainted with as you grow older; despite my lack of understanding, Father knew enough to call himself an expert. According to his record, Mama was mentally ill; I could not confirm nor deny this statement, as I was only four when she passed away and all of the memories collected with her were tinkered by Fathers judgment —it was almost as if he wished to dispel every positive remnant of Mama. He has and continues to call her “destructive” and “unable to control herself,” and threatens me with those same labels.

“Crazy pills……they fix everything, they tie your red ribbon, they take away your pain.”

He repeats

“Crazy pills……they fix everything, they tie your red ribbon, they take away your pain.”

Yet another lullaby that lingers in the trails of my adolescence. Those same capsules that Father shoved into Mama’s mouth simply for his own relief and her seduction would soon disintegrate on my tongue. That same pill-bottle would shake to the rhythm of my fathers stone-cold heart, just for his own pleasure in the bedroom—remember what I said about the red-ribbon week? Prime time for pill-popping, according to Father. I fought, I challenged him, but isn’t that the point of being a teenager? And if he was so repulsed by my mother in the first place, why would he attempt to shut me up and make me her muse? I nailed every one of her qualities on the head but one, and I knew that if I were to shut up, sew my mouth closed, Father would only ever pry it open for pleasure, trickery, or pill-popping.

Father picking up an extra shift at the diner, first scarce when Mama was around, became far more common after her death; whether it was because he wished to run away and avoid the reality of roughing it out with two daughters, or he desired to compensate for what we now lacked, was uncertain. Mama never wrote herself a will, but Father was able to whip one up right before court and forge her signature with my handy-work; that way if anyone were to get in trouble for the fabrication, it would be me. Not that the will encompassed much anyways; Mama was not materialistic, and even her wedding ring was self-made from fermented clay. The only thing that could possibly be worth an adequate sum, which of course went to Father—regardless of whether or not that was truly Mama’s wish—was her artwork, but Father sealed that away in secrecy. I guess the will was more-so a safety-net for Father; to ensure that his gambling at the Emerald Casino would not completely pigeon-hole our financial status.

Mustering up the courage to unveil a portion of a largely unknown past is blood-curdling; in the entire fourteen years of my existence, 28% of which Mama was alive for, I have never entered the hole-in-the wall that was her studio; the only outlet of expression and true happiness Mama ever had. Perhaps I was hesitant, not because Father would reprimand me, but because I would unmask a facade that I was unfamiliar with; a persona that differed from the mother that would take us out for treats, swaddle and cuddle us gently, twirl our hair into topknots with red ribbon, and play with our knickknacks as if she were a child as well. Or even more sickening, uncover maltreatment that I was an indirect part of; that I saw happen, though was unable to do anything about.

On the 12th anniversary of Mama’s death, the 15th of December, I decided to finally break down those barriers; Father had not long departed for work, and my sister was out at the nearby grocery store applying for a job—perfect leeway for me to run to Mama’s studio, wedge the door open, and grab a few pieces of art which I could transport back to the house in a paper bag—little did I want to remain in the hole in the wall where Mama would stow away from Father. In I entered, using a loose bobby pin to key my entrance; shoving through the door and tinkering with the hinges, I practically pushed myself into the studio….a studio where life was but affliction. Frantically, the lights motioned in and out……the world began to spin, vertigo outran my balance.


“No wind, no rain, you will never see again. So fly away, red cardinal, sing your peace, and soon it will be your fate to lay.”




“Her mouth sewn shut, her eyes torn wide, it is your turn to shine, that bloody body of mine.”

I repeat unwillingly…..

“Her mouth sewn shut, her eyes torn wide, it is your turn to shine, that bloody body of mine.”

“Her mouth sewn shut, her eyes torn wide, it is your turn to shine, that bloody body of mine.”

Ripe from the death of my mother, “friends” which I had managed to never meet in my entire four years of living, visited what was left of our family, and brought over baked foodstuff: pies, stuffed turkey dinners, cans upon cans of spam, and a fresh batch of cookies with red icing and blue buttons on top. It is quite peculiar the audience you attract when someone in your family passes away; it almost becomes more so about the efforts around you than yourself and your own feelings. Several wept hymns of sorrow into my arms, stained my locks with their mascara-painted tears, and seasoned my chapel-outfit with pungent fragrances which have never quite worn away. It was only a matter of time until those “close-friend” strangers wore out their own invitation to our home; it was only a matter of time before Mama’s soul perished without remembrance; it was only a matter of time before Father had to rack up a job at the nearby diner, in order to compensate for the one-hit wonder of incoming pies, foodstuffs, and canned goods that were pitifully delivered onto our doorstep.

Sunday mass, getting primped for outings—red ribbon and all— and a weekly biscuits and gravy were all soon excluded from the agenda; Father, for as much as he could muster, remained virtually absent during the day time and would return in the evening, when my sister and I—mind you, infants at the time—would prepare hot dogs on the stove and be cautious as to not burn ourselves from the pot of rice noodles we would serve on the side. There was no curfew, and there was no limit; as drunk as a mule, Father would stomp into the doorway with a smile that seeped drool, and eyes that were glossed over like confection. Like clockwork, Father would lay in bed, wake at four in the morning, and begin the cycle all over again; part of me wishes I flushed his daily check down the toilet, for it was always thrown down the drain of stock-piled slot machines anyway. What was the point of taking on an extra job just to counteract your earnings with another source of spending? What was the point in pretending to care for your children, if you knew that they were running off of cold sausages and rice noodles—both of which were luxuries—while you feasted on your own addiction?

Father had, and quite frankly still hasn’t, a sense of self-awareness; I was seven in 1989, when his gambling addiction was at an all time high, and my sister four. Seven and FOUR; we were infants ravaging for food, fixing ourselves for school, cleaning the house—or might I say shack, as the walls began to rot as the weather wept more rain, sorrow, and moisture—and preparing our own meals. Seven and FOUR; we would howl on the doorstep when Father was fighting with his own inner demons—and we wished for him to not take it out on us next. Seven and FOUR; we mustered any cheap-labor we could get in order to collect a sum of money handsome enough to purchase canned spam, a pack of hot dogs, or if we were lucky, a sweet treat. Despite his ongoing absence, Father would bring us to the diner; this was only when the fridge reeked of spoiled milk and overripe spam. There was not a crack in his facade when out in public; he was revered as the single father who would grind his teeth to the gums in order to support his two daughters. No inner demons, no gambling addiction, no drunkard, nothing, just a notable civilian. Just let things slide by, let fibbers fib, just let things slide by, let fibbers fib: just keep your mouth sewn shut.

We had virtually no neighbors; our shack was the center of a sand-jungle, where scorpions and dunes were our only visitors. There was no one to call for food or groceries, and besides, that one-hit wonder of baked goods delivered on our doorstep would have aged long ago, trailing crumbs and the last remnants of Mama’s memory.

I recall just a few months into the winter season—the first year after Mama’s passing— when my lips grew chapped and hands rang dry; there was practically nothing left of the house but a vacant fridge, a few chipped and crumbling cupboards, and a common area where my sister and I would spread out wool sheets and lay for a remainder of the night—that is if Father didn’t scoop us into his room and play the “tie the ribbon” game. We were too young to understand that trickery; it’s re-arrival come our puberty was a bitter revelation. Having only the slightest grasp on household necessities and what we were lacking as a result of finances, I mustered up the confidence to ask Father for a job.

I’ll tidy the kitchen, I’ll sweep the floors, I will do everything Mama used to do and more

I begged

I’ll tidy the kitchen, I’ll sweep the floors, I will do everything Mama used to do and more

I urged

I’ll tidy the kitchen, I’ll sweep the floors, I will do everything Mama used to do and more

I cried

After what was a slight conundrum, Father permitted my apprenticeship; a promise of one dollar weekly allowance which, if collected properly, would budget just enough for a full fridge of groceries, and even an extra few cents for my own treat. The terms and conditions for this “almighty task” Father put me up to were quite peculiar. But a deal shouldn’t be backed out of…not for the handsome promise he made me if this task were to be complete. As if this whole job ordeal was not official enough, Father constructed an entire declaration which was meant to be followed; each slip-up meant one quarter lost.

Only four quarters to lose so don’t be wary, place this blindfold over your eyes and sing like a canary: sequester your doubts and worries for another day, for once this job is complete your gateway.

Father urged me to blind myself, to never peek; every afternoon, after unloading my backpack and debunking serious arithmetic—I am talking subtraction, addition, and even multiplication—Father summoned me to the back porch, where a black cloth would be placed over my face, and my phalanges were but the only eyes as to where we would head next. A fragrance of whiskey churned with red ribbon suffocated my nose as I entered what was an unknown location; my sense of direction was not too sharp, and because I was urged to never overlook Father’s genius, I let it slide by.

Precision, precision, precision, Father hummed as he stuck a thin needle and thread into my hands, clasping my fingers on the butt. Touch, feel, touch, feel, raw lips, raw mouth, raw body, raw soul. Touch, feel, touch, feel, raw lips, raw mouth, raw body, raw soul.

Don’t peek, don’t peek, soon you shall flee; it will all be over soon, just continue..one…two…three. Don’t peek, don’t peek, soon you shall flee; it will all be over soon, just continue..one…two…three.

But one slip, one LOOK, one QUICK PEAL, would expose the body lying limp, the cherry red lips now rubbed pale, the chapped and puckered hands I had rested my shoulder on for a break. The RED RIBBON stringing from head to toe….. cracked…dry….and seeping from a half-sewn-shut mouth.

People say raising teenage girls is difficult, all until they are forced to nurture their drunkard Father; on the days he was not taking a double shift at the diner and then washing that double shift down with a gambling whopper, which would take hours, even days to fully digest, he was recovering from his evening outings to the Emerald Casino. Last night, for instance, Father called me whaling because his lips were glued to the slot machine. Don’t ask….fine, he was trying to make out with Candy, an animated prostitute on his favorite game. Anyways, I had to grab my bicycle from the back lot of the house, lobby it down the driveway, and manually drive—-along the interstate—to the site where my father was likely groaning like a toddler attempting to swat at a blood-bellied mosquito. In all fairness, it was Saturday evening which called for nothing more than a homework session…well past due assignment session..far less exhilarating than maneuvering myself along the interstate with a set of fatigued petals.

The Emerald Casino….don’t be fooled by the name, is a collection of uneven floorboards glued together with chewed up gum, an atmosphere of unfit businessmen attempting, and succeeding, to spend all of their money and energy into one slot machine until it is inevitably wasted into thin air. A parody of monopoly, you would be surprised to find that individuals as cheap as my father were regarded as a Carnegie or Rockefeller; not necessarily for their fortune, but rather for their continued attempt to sabotage the newbies. Those newbies who would soon fill the same voids—come the time individuals like Father grow far too old and crabby to continue onward with this temperamental addiction they call “love.”

Perhaps Father meant to compensate for the loss of Mama with his ongoing addiction; after all, he groped those slot machines the same damn way he did Mama. Sliding his swollen digits into the mouths of the machines, only to rip them out, choke the machines, and suck the brilliance out of the illuminated numbers and colors. He was a gnat, a fly, a mosquito…a beer bellied insect which settled on one host machine, feasted on it’s blood and meat, and then once it was completely depleted, switched to the freshly refurbished machine.

As I entered the building, following the map of Father’s obnoxious outcries, I stumbled across a set of glass doors; Father said I was smack dab in the middle of my “rebellious phase,” and in accordance with his statement, I disobeyed the discrete message on those doors, opening them regardless. Curiosity is not a friend, it is an enemy..an antagonizer, which toggles with your mind and translates the impulses into your own faults; inside those “forbidden doors” hid a series of paintings..unmistakably detailed artwork which belonged to the bleeding heart of a blood-sucked, drawn-faced master. Gold frames enveloped an upside down canvas; having been tarred or even scribbled over, the smut sapped onto my hands and suffocated the rims of my nostrils.

Curiosity is not a friend, it is an enemy..an antagonizer, which toggles with your mind and translates the impulses into your own faults.

I repeated, I tugged, I lashed, I screamed

Curiosity is not a friend, it is an enemy..an antagonizer, which toggles with your mind and translates the impulses into your own faults.

Mama always told me it was of no use or good to steal; once the act is done, all morality is slurped from your veins, next your capillaries, and finally your vessels. Once you are drained of that righteousness, once that act has been pursued JUST ONCE, it becomes an addiction. Like Father’s fervor for gambling, it would embody love…fool you…irk you…blame you..it would betray you….the temperamental addiction would crawl beneath your skin, entangle your tissue and bones and veins and cells. It would take on a life of its own; a life that was completely swallowed from beneath your own skin. The common alcoholic would claim that there was something so soothing about that intoxication….that loss of control…that lack of fault, or guilt, or blame. As would a drug-addict who cares no more about life than he does paralyzing or toggling with his veins. There was something so enthralling about that painting housed in the palm of my hands; flipped upside down and sideways with nothing but the stretch marks of old age and warmth of settled-dust. I went against Mama’s word..just this once..and placed the merely eight by five painting into my satchel; the back read will be adapted into a larger painting come time for refurbishment (‘86). Hurrying back to Father and pedaling along the interstate to make it back home, I was eager to tend to my own temperamental addiction; perhaps this painting was more than simply an illustrated-canvas…perhaps there strung remnants of an artist’s red or blue ribbon; their own drawn-face, sweat, tears, that polished the final coat of paint….perhaps it was a reflection of their reality…or it foreshadowed their misfortune.

“No-see-um” is how Father would refer to mosquitoes, gnats, flies, and all in between; the sand-jungle was chalk-full of those creatures, parasites rather, which would crawl onto your skin, latch onto your veins and capillaries, and slurp down that delectable strawberry daiquiri we call red-ribbon. I never quite understood that name; you obviously see those gnats, mosquito, flies, and other insects, hence why you are able to squash them with the flat of your shoe, or dismember their entire body with the flick of a finger-nail. My sister was fascinated by their destiny; invade, feast and host on the capillaries until bare-bone and red-ribbon is reached, and then repeat that same process on the next victim. An occupation unparalleled; no other insect feasts on its host as mercilessly as do “noseeums,” yet we continue to enable their tempered addiction; we are their “love interests,” and their alibi….we are what fuels the parasite.

After Father settled onto his mattress—rotting to the hymn of whiskey lullabies and a drunkard’s cradle song—I crawled into the corner of the kitchen nook, and dug out the framed canvas…sure, I stole, but that was not a tempered addiction, it was a splurge of curiosity. Undoubtedly, Mama would have done the same, and excused her doing so with the fact that she was simply supporting a nameless artist like herself. The angst, excitement, and nervousness of unveiling what would be a “hidden treasure” blanketed my body; I imagined this is the high a child receives as they hop down the stairs and crawl to the bottom of the tree on Christmas morning. My sister and I never received presents, and instead learned the value of appreciation every December 25th; the next time you see a “noseeum,” be grateful that you are not being slapped by the foot of a shoe, or swatted away as if you were a nuisance for simply existing, Father would imply. But what if that was simply untrue? What if I was father’s noseeum, which he could not be rid of as he did Mother? Or what if he was mine, and I had yet to realize; how would I swat him away?

Notice how my mind wanders; Mama taught me that to think is to wonder, and to wonder is to explore, and to explore is to yield…yield experience and understanding and mastery. Perhaps that is how she prefaced her paintings…. with wonder and exploration; that same sort of ponder that Father shut down with the swig of a whiskey bottle or the lick of a vodka-rim.

After sweeping the blanket of dust off of the painting, I surveyed the artistic arena; faded though legible, initials looped the bottom of the frame as if to belong to a vanished civilian…someone who was slapped by the flat of a shoe or swatted by the crippled digits of anger, hatred, annoyance even. That person was dismissed, they were ignored, they were strung to the ceiling..red ribbon seeping from their mouth to their shins.

Or…possibly it was the other way around…possibly it was the mosquito that had done the damage; that sucked the life out of the civilian, that housed itself in the veins, capillaries, tissue, and bones within the interior of the human flesh. Perhaps that mosquito was bear-bellied, drunken by anger, hatred, annoyance.

Keying the lock to Mama’s studio after a trek through the back lot, I slammed the door shut; forging for a trace, an instance, a clue, a hint, as to who this painting could belong to, and how it possessed me so distantly. It was then that the painting translated into reality:

Don’t peek, don’t peek, soon you shall flee; it will all be over soon, just continue..one…two…three. Don’t peek, don’t peek, soon you shall flee; it will all be over soon, just continue..one…two…three.

Cried a figure,

Don’t peek, don’t peek, soon you shall flee; it will all be over soon, just continue..one…two…three. Don’t peek, don’t peek, soon you shall flee; it will all be over soon, just continue..one…two…three.

Crawled the beds of his nails onto mine; gripping me down to the ground, turning me towards the pale, fragile, doll—mouth sewn shut, red ribbon cracked and patterned along the beds of her sunken eyes.

It was Mama; it was she…the “noseeum” depicted on that canvas. She was the vanished artist, the hidden treasure, the no-good nuisance that Father flattened with the heel of his shoe.

He cried

You suck the life and rhythm out of me..damn mosquito how can you be? I returned the favor with just a quick smudge, and now your sorrow and red ribbon lay out a buzz.”

He sang

You suck the life and rhythm out of me..damn mosquito how can you be? I returned the favor with just a quick smudge, and now your sorrow and red ribbon lay out a buzz.”


And slap….squash…smack…I had let things slide by, fibbers fib… I had allowed him, that beer-bellied drunkard, to lace my red ribbon, to tie it in a bow. I had become the new Mama. I let her faults become mine. Her chapped hands, cherry cheeks, and contused thighs took on a new life in mine; red ribbon seeped from my chin to my thighs, Father’s body contorted over mine. Her tears became my own, her curls tangled in mine, her annoyance now my burden……her sewn-mouth has become mine……and the flick of a paintbrush, the meticulous arrangement of red ribbon, would confirm my shared misfortune with her canvas that mapped my fate.

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