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There's Nothing More Painful
Than Watching Your Child Struggle to Read

by Francine DuBois

For Maria

There's nothing more painful than watching your child struggle to read
Except, of course, picking her dying body up off the floor after you've been shot five times:
Three times in the shoulder, once in the kneecap, and the final shot (uh-oh, getting woozy now)
You just can't feel where it landed and the trails of blood have all run together.

You just had to have him over for dinner, didn't you? Little Miss Martha Stewart
Bringing out the hors d'ouerves. "And colby cheese is for remembrance," you note,
Slipping a little Ophelia in with the potatoes. "I have long longed to make this for you,"
You say, handing him a slice of your three-alarm chili-glazed meatloaf.

He played charades with your daughter ("No, no. Sounds like itch.") to pass the time
While the crusty dishes swam with the fishes. You seemed confident leaving the two to their games,
Playing the evening away while you and your pals the scrubbing bubbles shared some quality time.
Then it got that Lifetime movie-of-the-week quiet and you heard the screams.

I bet you weren't thinking about phonics as your daughter ran into the kitchen,
(Little bloody toeprints all over the mopped floor: what would Martha do?)
Clutching her pink flannel nightgown. "Mommy, he's gonna hurt me."
Did you stop and say, "No, darling. He's going to hurt you" or did you let it slide?

Emeril's "BAM!" was never as loud as those shots ringing through the kitchen,
Knocking delicate wooden geese off their cabinet perch into unused cast iron pots,
Bronze molds that have never tasted food deflecting bullets right and left.
Did you then tell your daughter that su- can take a sh- sound?

"Sssh, sugar. Sure, we'll be okay" as you hover under the table while chairs fly.
Is that when you launched into the long e sounds? "Keep your feet still. We need to sleep
To dream this away. Please, leave!" Killers don't care about phonics, yet you claim
Those wounds will heal faster than the vicarious shame you feel when your daughter can't read.

But, honey, trust me. You've got bigger things to worry about than your daughter's inability
To read you the New York Times on Sunday. What are you going to do about those nasty
Bullet holes? What are you going to do about this killer in your home who won't leave?
When are you going to realize what the real problem in this situation is, sweetheart?

Francine's Version -- Hezekiah's Version -- Inspiration
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