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Circling the Drain: Stories


Circling the Drain: Stories Cover




No one knew in the beginning, not even us. It was only after the fields had been combed and the beds checked under and the basements cautiously explored. Only after pantries were rummaged, barns examined, and garages turned upside down. After sheds were emptied and nooks and crannies pestered with light. It was only after Mama sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee long grown cold and stared at nothing while her lips moved quietly to the Twenty-third Psalm over and over, and Daddy looked ten years older slumped into the parlor couch with a whiskey and three days of beard.

I sat in the corner where they'd told me to, knees to my chest, eyes squeezed shut, and stomach clenched like a fist. I sang to myself or traced patterns on the wall and tried to pull apart what happened.

It was only after they dragged Milo's Pond: thirty-five tired, solemn farmers slopping through, inch by careful inch, hoping to find something and hoping not to. It was only after they'd found nothing.

There was no postcard from a faraway place and no letter with photos of a baby or a husband or a new home. After another empty Christmas came and went with the air thick in our house, the tension like cheese you would have to lean into to slice. After my first kiss and my second, my first day of high school and my last, my good grades and my not so good grades, only after it all went quietly by and I left them there, old now and broken in that house.

Years later, when I looked back and tried to understand, I replayed again and again the strange events of that day my older sister, Lucy, disappeared, and couldn't find a thread at all. I wondered at the way I'd figured things to be. I missed her as I had missed her every day since I turned around to empty air. Since I found the voice that answered my chatter came from no one, that my sister had left no footprints for the last hundred yards.

Spring rains threatened to flood some parts of town that year, and Hansen's field still hadn't dried out. I was a sleuth, tracking back to the final set of footprints, in the middle of the field, where they stopped mid-stride, then stood, feet together, and pressed down hard, it appeared, in the slightly muddy ground. Her prints were deep, like she'd pushed off. As though she had stopped short, spread her arms and pushed off into the air.

At first I thought I saw her straight above, arms extended, green calico dress fluttering against the breeze. She was as high as the clouds and I craned my neck to see her but then the sky was clear and empty and I wasn't sure I'd seen anything at all. Lucy! I screamed and spun around. Lucy! Lucy! Lucy! The field was a green sheet cake surrounded by a ring of tiny trees and I was its centerpiece, a ballerina, a hollow figurine.

I sat in the corner for three days. People came to the house and brought food. At night I skittered into the kitchen, ate until I was sleepy, then curled up in the corner with a blanket and a pillow from one of the parlor chairs. They spoke in whispers to Mama and Daddy. They refilled Daddy's whiskey glass and coaxed Mama to eat something now, Betty, girl they'll find her soon, they will. Sometimes I got an absentminded pat on the head or a pinch on the cheek but mostly I was left alone. Mostly I was forgotten.

It was only after all the looking that they found the bones. Years later, under a hunter's cabin sixty miles away in Gleryton. Last spring yuppies wanted to bulldoze their new property, wanted to build a nicer place, and in the basement they found the bones of my sister, Lucy, arranged in a careful pattern on the floor. Matched the dental records.

Matched the lovely crack in her right femur where she'd fallen, fragile, while ice-skating when she was ten and I was three, too small to skate, but standing on the side of the rink watching my beautiful sister twirl.

The summer Lucy disappeared I was nine and a half. Now I am thirty-three. I live in a house with a dog, a husband and rowdy seven-year old twin boys. I can't let them out of my sight. I spy on them if I have to, but I like to be near them all the time. I tell myself: maybe I can do something if there is a second time around, maybe I'll be looking in the right direction.

So last April, though Mama was dead and Daddy was in and out of it, we buried Lucy. I was made of tears. You were right, I whispered to Daddy, whose confused blue eyes studied me. She was taken from us, I said close to his ear. Someone took her, you were right. But all I could think was: Oh Lucy. Oh Lucy, why didn't you push harder on that ground? I would have helped, if you'd needed it. Why didn't you push yourself off into the blue sky and fly away like I'd always thought you had? And the only answer that slid back to me is this: perhaps I wasn't forgotten at all. Maybe my sister was snatched from Hansen's field as she intercepted. As she spread her arms to save me.

Product Details

Davis, Amanda
by Amanda Davis
Harper Perennial
New York
Short Stories (single author)
Young women
Loss (psychology)
Psychological fiction, American
Stories (single author)
Literature-A to Z
Edition Number:
1st Perennial ed.
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series Volume:
no. 221
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.02x5.34x.53 in. .36 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Circling the Drain: Stories Used Trade Paper
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Product details 208 pages Perennial - English 9780688179090 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Vivid and immediate as graffiti, these stories stay etched in the brain. This is fierce, original, and often poetic work. Amanda Davis is a compelling and exciting new writer."
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