We played tag, racing around my swing set, careful to avoid
the pastel-striped poles with their flaking paint chips and rust spots.
“My grandma was raked,” a girl from up the street revealed.
“Raked?” My eight-year-old brain imagined an elderly woman
being scraped raw by a garden tool.
“Yeah, a bad man stuck his thing in her. She was raked.”
At daycare, a preteen prone to pushing me around
said her mom told her about a woman who was pregnant
with a baby she didn’t want: “She rammed a coat hanger
through her belly button and killed herself.”
I recoiled, pressing a hand to my navel. That night,
I dreamed of a small skeleton propped up on a wood stove.
Later in the summer a friend called, interrupting my reading
of Charlotte’s Web. “Did you hear about Hannah?”
she asked. In our tiny non-secular school, everyone knew
who Hannah was. “She died in a car crash.”
I hung up the phone and went to my father, the source
of information in our household, with his daily paper
and habit of watching the evening news.
“Hannah’s dead,” I blurted. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I thought it would upset you.” His gruff voice softened.
“I thought you didn’t need to know.”