Marriage at 17 Years

by Gary Dop

Featured Art: Proposed House, Coral Gables, Florida, Interior Perspective by Stuart Earl Cohen



“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.

 


Originally appeared in NOR 21.

Gary Dop founded and directs the low-residency MFA program at Randolph College, where he is an English professor, writer, poet, and playwright. His work appears in publications such as Georgia Review, Southern Review, Washington Post, North American Review, Agni, Sugar House Review, and Prairie Schooner. His first book of poetry is Father, Child, Water (Red Hen Press). www.garydop.com  

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