Star Fall

Joyce Wheatley

There was the “fall.”

“Dropped on her head as a baby,” Mama said. Nothing congenital. Nothing genetic. An accident. Story retold at every family gathering.

“Dropped on my head as a baby,” Aunt Vivienne said, twanging like Loretta Lynn. “I don’t remember none of it.”  Her caramel voice melted, southern-refined as Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire. “Might I have a piece of pie?”

I sat beside her. She blinked, like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  Periwinkle shadowed her eyes, mascara clumped her lashes. Her crossed ankles bulged over patent leather Mary Janes under a blue taffeta cloud. She twirled blonde tendrils at her temples.

“How you doing?” Her voice, edgy now, inhabited a downtown corner around 9th and Chester, like the Dave Matthews Band’s “Grey Street” woman.

“Ok. I guess.” I lied. I drank too much. The baby never stopped fussing. You know how babies can be, how they never stop screaming, how they scrunch up their puny faces, how sometimes they twist head-to-toe, stiffen and arch their backs, and practically jump out of your arms.

Vivienne’s hazel eyes slanted, like Mama’s, like Grandma’s, like mine. She blew smoke like rings of memories, like Lauren Bacall, like she got my number and wanted me to know it.

“Yeah, you look like you’re doin’.” Syllables dredged up her throat, like coffee sludge from the cup rattling in its saucer, china-pink roses climbing over the rim.

“But whaddoiknow? I was dropped on my head as a baby.”

Joyce Wheatley writes and works as a librarian in Ithaca, NY.  Her poems and stories have been published in Lost Balloon, Bending Genres, A3 Review, Bath Flash Fiction, Reflex Press, Gravel Magazine and elsewhere.