On a tombstone in the Goosetown Cemetery, an etching just stops. KEIM, it says first, JACOB J and then 1868-1939. But next to this is LAVINIA M, and then 1870-19nothing. Inserted here is a puttied-over square, not smooth like the rest of the marble. What a waste of space, says Lavinia, hiding. My wife’s older than Idaho, says Jacob, reclining. The name Lavinia means purity, a name of the light, scrubbed clean like soap. Near the happy couple, a black statue of a beetle-shelled angel threatens to block out their sun.
I’d rather we believed urban myths as games of telephone. Like that Thai circus dwarf (Od) in the Pattaya Mail, or that Austrian circus dwarf (Franz Dasch) in the Las Vegas Sun. (The same dwarf?). He jumped on a trampoline and, instead of dismounting to the ground (to rapturous applause), dismounted into a Hippo’s mouth, (to rapturous applause). The Mail says the Hippo’s name was Hilda; the Sun doesn’t care. Both papers say her gag reflex was the only reason she swallowed him. But the Sun hints at that terrifying moment when the crowd (slowly) realized this wasn’t a part of the show.
At age ten, I was insistent. My mother ruined me with tone. I insisted on wearing slips under knit skirts. One skirt was hers; I insisted it fit me. It was a fancy winter party. I shuffled my feet along the carpet, with its busy ions. The skirt, ankle-length, insisted on bunching at the hem, revealing my priggish slip. The first snowfall, my mother sang in bright, wet vowels, so that the whole tall room turned to giggle above me. For revenge, when I flew alone to visit my father, I insisted on showing the stewardess photos of her in a Cyndi Lauper costume, the strands of her rainbow wig stuck up like troll hair.