Marriage at 17 Years

By Gary Dop

“Come here—quick!” You know it, her serious, nearly
               whispered call. She says, “I think it’s a squirrel.”
Brown bulb of fur, it’s tucked behind an old chair.
               The kids sleep upstairs; you have both abandoned
your evening’s screens. You are here,
               a step away from a baby flying squirrel. You grab
the wicker hamper. She says, “Don’t scare it.”
               Hamper in one hand, towel in the other, you wonder
how to catch it without scaring it. The big-eyed squirrel
               knows you’re there. “Be careful,” you hear as you swipe
at the squirrel who scampers, fast as life,
               into the wicker trap you lift and close.
Then she says, “It’s in there,” a statement of fact
               that feels like a question. You say, “It’s in there,”
your voice an octave too high. She peeks through
               the wicker gaps to snap a picture. You relax
your grip on the lid, and the wild thing wriggles free.
                You scream. She smacks you
upside the head, a gentle reminder of the hibernating children.
               You both scurry after the squirrel
which seems so scared until it’s near the stairs—
               then it’s a feral beast between you and your offspring.
With animalistic ease—her leap and block, your swipe
               and scoop—the rodent’s back in its cage,
and you’re out on the sidewalk, clutching the hamper,
               waiting for your neighbors—just pulling away—
to be far enough not to see your business. You both smile
               and wave too easily, like stoned teenagers startled by cops.
A moment later, the flying squirrel is off:
               The thing that just happened is over.
And you are outside, suddenly together.

Gary Dop–writer, storyteller, and professor–founded and directs the Randolph College MFA program. Dop’s stories, plays, poems, and essays can be found in venues such as Georgia Review, Southern Review, Washington Post, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of the poetry collection Father, Child, Water (Red Hen Press) and several scripts, including the new media play Deemocracy: An American Absurdity (Rain Taxi).

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