By Kate Hall.
Under the table, my father is touching his knee to mine and I’m tired so I say to my mother, “Daddy is a dominatrix.” Seeing as I’m six years old, my mother is understandably stunned. “What have you been teaching her?” she asks my father who is sitting with his hand cupped around his ear as if there is someone at the door. “What?” he asks, in response, “I can’t hear you.” We play this game when mother’s calling us from the other room where one of us says something and the other says that back. Mother doesn’t think it’s very funny and she’s not letting this go. “Dwight, I’m talking to you,” she says and he’s shifted around so he’s facing the back of the room. In my imagination, which Daddy says is off limits to everyone but me, I’m an amputee wearing a ball gown. This way he can’t reach me under the table because there’s just material from the gown where my knee would be and after dinner, instead of running around my room until I wear out, I tell him I have phantom pains and he excuses me to clear the table which my sister, who is not as cute as I am, has already begun to do. I’ve read that incest has nothing to do with looks but let me tell you I’m quite the vixen. Daddy says he can’t call me his “little girl” anymore because I’m practically a teenager so he calls me his “mistress” instead. Back at the table, they’re still droning on about who’s not really listening which, when you add up all the nights of this, is pretty much everyone involved. My sister and I are in the kitchen washing dishes when she looks down at me, one soapy hand through her hair. “What’s that?” she screams, dish dropping from other hand and breaking into a million little pieces all over my mother’s good floor. “That, where your leg should be?” she says, pushing the fabric of my skirt up, up. It looks like my imagination is taking over the room and I’m only six so I start crying and my mother comes running, hands on her hips, and goes into what looks like electric shock when she sees me, teetering there on my one leg. If anyone can offer an explanation, it’s my father, but he’s in the other room chewing something from dinner so I start picking up the pieces of what my sister broke, collecting them in one big pile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kate Hall‘s poetry, stories and nonfiction have appeared in such publications as The Antioch Review, Rattle, Perihelion, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, The Brooklyn Rail, The Mississippi Review, 5_Trope, and Stirring where she served as a poetry editor. She received the Robert Frost Poetry Prize while a senior at Kenyon College, holds a JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lives in Brooklyn.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, April 10th, 2007.