Let's say your first memory, the one that doesn't
seem like a fever dream, is of your mother being carried out of
the house by wisecracking paramedics after a suicide attempt.
Imagine that you watched all of this while sitting in a playpen that
was actually a splintery wooden storage box. There she goes, red
running from her wrists and soaking the dark green carpet like a
botched Christmas art project. The paramedics laugh about not
getting the blood to stop. They can bleed for three days and
live, they say. She'll be fine, they say. Your grandfather
chews tobacco, spits down the narrow lid of a glass RC Cola bottle, and
doesn't take his eyes away from the television where Tully Blanchard
suplexes Magnum T.A. off the top rope. Your grandmother
doesn't bother coming home from work early after the police call her.
Later, your mother is home again and you're in her
lap. She has Through the Looking Glass open in front of
you. Your grandmother only allows the Bible and crossword puzzle
books in the house, so you're excited. You hear her reading the
words, but her eyes go all fluttery so she gives up and shows you the
pictures. Your tiny nails, those little baby claws, pick and pull
at the black line of stitches that go down from her palm and almost
reach her elbow. She smiles. You see the Jabberwocky. You
It's the next day and your mother is gone.
Your grandmother had her taken away. You never see her again.
Let's say you want to talk to someone about the
vorpal blade. Lewis Carroll stuck with you while everything else
went away. You want to talk about it, but you don't know
how. It's possible that you could yell it out in the middle of a
conversation with a friend. You have a few of those, though none
really know you that well. You could whisper it on the way to a
concert, but you don't get out that much. Just talking about it,
starting with the vorpal blade, that idea scares you.
Maybe it's like talking about your grandmother, a
nurse at one of the cold buildings where old people go to fade away,
who went to the funeral of every resident she ever had that died under
her watch. Maybe it's the same as finding a way to bring up the
fact that she took a single flower from each of those funerals.
It could be similar to discussing your grandmother, her white shoes
squeaking on the tile of the bathroom floor, taking a safety pin and
sticking one flower per funeral to your scrotum while telling you that
you, little you, were the product of sin, and that your little sin-y
bits are the reason for all that is bad in the world. That you,
little snotty you, there in front of the mirror pissing yourself while
the red drip dries, need to watch the flowers wilt and blacken because
the wages of sin are death.
It could be like never knowing your father, a man
that your whole family only referred to as Potter the Rapist, and
realizing you wouldn't haveanything to say to him except maybe
something about the jaws that bite.
What it's closest to, maybe, is telling somebody,
maybe surrounded by flashing blue, that you know a little, a lot,
everything, about the missing Liddell twins, those two girls who
vanished on the way home from middle school. It would be like
explaining how yellow their hair was, or how they both had rabbits on
No. The real connection, the only one that
makes sense, would be you telling somebody, anybody, that you never had
the vorpal blade. It was never yours. You, little snotty
boy, little product of sin, you had the claws that catch. The
only way to talk about the vorpal blade is to let somebody know you
want them to have it. You have to tell them by yell or by whisper
that they need to use it on you.
Deaton lives and writes in eastern Kentucky. He received his MFA in
Creative Writing from Spalding University. His work has appeared or
forthcoming in decomP, Right Hand Pointing, Zygote in My Coffee, and elsewhere.