In the days when I wrote shorts stories and still didn't know how dreadful they were, when I used the real names of everyone I knew, I could not imagine anything other than how they dressed, what they ate, and why they did the expected. And I didn't notice across the river and overcast afternoon in Manhattan, or see the girl who's taken to the children's bookstore where her favorite author signs his latest work. Her mother, who's recently divorced and would never describe herself as impulsive discovers she's attracted to the man, and while afterward her daughter pretends to examine the displays of books, the woman invites him to their apartment for dinner. The shop where this will happen is small but well situated, filling steady orders from the private schools that seem to be on every other block. The girl, who's seven and still loves being read to, is in her room that looks across to Riverside Park. A wall calendar reads 1980, which seems right for the styles of dresses hanging in her closet, or the pink record player that sits in one corner and is living on borrowed time. In the kitchen she has to be told more than once to eat lunch, but she is thinking about later, and while she isn't sure what will happen at the bookshop, she dreams of discouraging clouds which shadow the other children, that rain will punish their beautiful mothers, though none as beautiful as hers, and she can see―seated at a table, fountain pen in his long fingers and waiting patiently, the handsome prince whose story she will write without my help.
Copyright © 2013 David Petruzelli. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2013.