Something Pretty

One morning Sweet T’s Ice Cream Shop did not open, and it did not open again for a long time. I was seven years old when the owner shot and killed his wife, and then himself. Their daughter was in my second grade class. Her name was Casey. She was my friend. She did not come to school that day.

Somehow everybody knew what had happened. I don’t remember how I found out. Who would willingly impart such information to a child? What had probably happened was someone’s parents were talking about it over breakfast, the daily dose of gossip for once more satisfying than their coffee, completely unaware that their kid was right there, listening to every word they said. And while children may not be able to totally understand everything people say, they can still hear it. And they will repeat it. So, like I said, everybody knew.

In my head the scene played out like it would on television. Children know what violence looks like. There’s a statistic about how many murders the average child has seen on TV by the time they’re five. The number is in the thousands.

I had never been to the apartment above Sweet T’s where Casey and her family lived. In my head the scene played out in the ice cream shop. I had been there so many times, could picture so clearly the black and white checkered floors and hand drawn menu, cherry red stools covered in shiny plastic that I used to spin around on, my feet dangling in velcro. In my head the couple stood on opposite sides of the room, shouting words that I couldn’t understand, leaning forward with their chests shoved out, spit flying from their mouths and arms gesturing wildly, violently. And then it cuts to the glass case of ice cream, brightly colored flavors sitting untouched, waiting patiently for the closed sign to turn to open. Then the crack of a gun, twice.

In my head they were deadbeats, not parents. Not husband and wife, mother and father. Death was jarring enough for a seven year old to make sense of, but killing your family? Killing yourself? It didn’t make any sense.

I remember making a card for her, for Casey. A piece of unblemished, white printer paper delicately folded and creased with the careful movements of a child marveling at her new capabilities for precision, trying so hard to get it just right. My materials were laid out in front of me. I had Crayola markers with misleading names. The yellow was actually a rotten lemon gray, the blue a rusty bumper brown. Frustrated, I dug through my pencil box trying to find something pretty, the card had to be pretty. But all I had were broken crayons and dull colored pencils and a green highlighter without a cap. Casey always had the best markers. They weren’t fat and dirty like mine. They had pretty names I couldn’t pronounce like “Azure” and “Fuchsia.” They drew perfect skinny lines that made everything look good. I had always been so jealous of them. Casey never shared. I grabbed a handful of crayons. I knew the card wasn’t going to be be as pretty as I wanted.

But what could I write in my unsure scrawl, what could I draw that would do any good? I knew what I could draw, I had a limited repertoire after all. Flowers with big uneven petals, pointy, smiling suns, birds shaped like flattened m’s. I don’t remember what I drew. I never saw Casey again.

About Gena LeBlanc

Gena LeBlanc is a senior at Bennington College. She spends too much time on thesaurus.com and reading about the theology of the Devil. She's been published in Microfiction Monday Magazine and Purple Pig Lit. She can also be found on Twitter.

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