I am a lucky bird; my every song gilts its listeners ear; I know every tune in existence, except the one that can charm God to release me from my cage.
The small world inside the girl’s head gives her father a worry. It too is small. It is so small, in fact, it is nearly invisible. The small nearly invisible worry swims like a goldfish or undetected submarine between the girl’s father and their family doctor. The big conspicuous doctor does not notice the signals and pauses not to breathe. So the small worry backpedals and catches the attention of the girl, who is staring at a painting on the doctor’s office walls. Interpreting it is easy:
“She is my daughter, I ought to know!”
The daughter that is better at receiving signals and looking at the painting turns her head. The worry swims around her head like a fishbowl but does not know how to get out. The girl taps her head and pulls at her eyelids but only accomplishes getting the looks of the father and the doctor.
“Come out,” the girl says at the same time the father says, “Look how she plays with herself.”
The big conspicuous doctor opens his big red mouth and big black words fall out of his red mouth and steam at the father’s feet.
“What if I started pulling at my eyes all the time? Is that normal, too?”
No more words fall out of the doctor’s mouth.
“If we are just going to waste each other’s time-”
“We can run a battery of potentially traumatizing tests or we can give her the mental assessment again.” Finally, finally, a signal. The air yawns like an articulated joint, bored. The big conspicuous doctor yawns too, peeling back to reveal a wound from the attack. Red like mouth. Red like smouldering wounds.
“You don’t understand.” The girl’s father shakes his head. The daughter sees he needs help and scaffolds some words around his head. It spells out: Right! You could shake her brain out of her head and put it on your palm like a marble if she let you!
Poof! The doctor disappears.
The world inside her head really is small.
* * *
But the girl cannot disappear everything.
At home, the mother stands like a puppet with her hands nailed to her lip.
Maybe they have nailed other parts of her too-
-The mother cannot walk towards her.
-The mother is having trouble closing her mouth.
A steady stream of silver fish flash from the gaping hole in her face. The silver fish are erect while the father’s are floppy.
“…dee-lays… and…and serge-juries?”
The girl bounces rainbow balloons off of the walls with her mind as the fish swim back in forth. The fish inside the girl’s head is still there and it is still inside the fishbowl. It is stuck.
“So, what do you suggest we do about her?”
Stop arguing, says the father.
“But if we don’t argue, how will we ever reach a solution?”
There is nothing to argue about. It’s up to her.
“It’s up to us to be able to see if something is wrong.”
Wrong? There is nothing wrong.
“What did the doctor say?” The mother shoots the fish like a harpoon. The father is hurt.
This one sinks, like a whale.
The girl bounces the biggest ball at the mother.
The mother screams and all rainbow from the balls blur into a black mess.
uh oh! Punishment!
Bad girl! Bad girl!
The girl is having a memory of this:
The girl, father and mother are going on a trip to the park.
It is a nice day.
“Isn’t the fresh air so good for you?” says her mother. Her face is bright teeth-and-gums pink, like she just came back from the dentist. The girl has never seen her face so un-stuck. Her voice comes to her like the other side of a paper cone of light.
“Are you eating?” the voice says, putting its flesh coloured disk in front of her.
Rainbow and shapes parade up and down the red and white checkered ground. Some more shapes clutter on the green ground. The green ground is blinking with white and black stars. The girl touches the white and black stars and they are not pointy. So she accepts their signal by putting them in her mouth.
The mother makes a soft sound of disgust.
The father is more lenient, elastic. “Quick, are daisies poisonous?”
“What’s that nonsense?” The mother pushes her fleshy disk into the air, sniffing with dramatic effect.
“She’s trying…” Slowly, the father releases his massaging hold on the mother’s pink digits. Ten in all. Ten in fact. The girl loves to count them, count their closeness to her when they seldom pull her into a piggy kiss.
“I’ll tell you what’s poisonous.” The mother gives a sharp thwack to the girls’ head and something inside her goes, “ouch”.
But what comes out of her mouth is, “More.”
“She’s become violent.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“She must take the tests.”
no no no says the girl to her mind.
But the girl will take the tests.
What are we doing in the doctor’s office again? the girl asks. We like to be safety conscious, don’t we, says the father. Safety? Like hand? The girl sucks on her own hand and then offers it like a dead fish to the father. Just one more test. Just a one more turn and we will be in the right room. When he refuses, the girl sits down in the middle of the hospital hallway and replays the moment in her head in the doctor’s office. The doctor’s big red mouth sits in the corner of the room like a furnace. The rest of the doctor’s body is replaced by the skeleton resting in display by the examination table, under the painting. All of this is inside a red balloon. The red balloon is her brain and she is trying to blow it bigger. But her mouth is outside her head and the balloon is inside it. She is blowing herself inside out.
“…Atavistic,” says the red mouth with sloping sides.
“It’s just simple spelling, word knowledge,” replies an echoe.
The sheet unfolds like a map. It unfolds and unfolds until it is as big as the room. The skeleton gets crushed, and the father flees the room. It is only the girl, the painting, and the mouth. The girl looks at the sheet and thinks:
The big atavistic dog is standing. The atavistic big dog tries to cross the road. The girl is studying the words on the page. The words on the page are:
It is like a trick: Where did atavistic go?
She will fail the test.
In her dream, she is sucking on a marble. It gets bigger and bigger until it chokes her. She grabs her mouth, trying to let go, and instead makes a noise: “More, more, more.” Her mother appears and touches the marble until it shrinks so small it disappears, taking her mother with it.
So it was all a dream, wasn’t it.
Was it all a dream?
They are back in the doctor’s office.
The doctor’s office is not a dream.
So it cannot be a dream.
“You were right.” says her father and the girls’ heart flutters frigidly.
The fancy doctor with the fancy degree seems to be in zealous agreement and pats the girl affectionately on the head. The pat does not reach the girl, so she reaches up to touch her scalp. It is not on his desk on the yellow envelop. The girl sitting on the side of the father watches the doctor pat paper idiotically and pats her own head.
“You don’t see the little changes.” Red like odorous bottles of finger paint. Red like liquid slipping out from under skin. “I see the little changes.”
“Like the tests said, I’m afraid…”
“It’s painful. We thought of how you said we should send her away if-”
“She failed every test, I’m sorry to say…”
“But there is nothing wrong with her.” The father grows big and the doctor shrinks. “We shall not treat her differently.” The father paused. “Except around you.”
The message from the father passes like a firework between the father and the doctor and the girl suddenly feels light.
The girl with the small world inside her head tilts towards to the sound of voices.