I never could cotton to to my third granddaughter. Yeah, I know what you’re saying, or thinking at the minimal. Downright cruel of me, not to love a child whose veins course with my blood. Even ruder to admit to it. Stab your accusational fingers at me all you want but hear my tale first.
They called her Dakota, of all names, even though the family hailed from Pittsburgh. The momma, my son’s latest wife Bev, had people from Rapid City. Bev was into that generational stuff, going back in time, looking at old documents, unfolding private letters long-forgot, fouling the air with their dusty secrets. Spooked me fair out of my pelt, that child did, what with them cold staring eyes and the whitest skin a person ever could have. Dakota’s skin weren’t porcelain. No. It was translucent, so translucent, I could see the veins spidering across her arms and her eyelids.
Bev claimed her Dakota was one of them come back kids the news yammers on about from time to time when they don’t have a robbery or a fire to set before you front and center while you try to eat your pork roast dinner. Claimed she was one of them who’d been born to a previous life. One of them who knew things they shouldn’t have. Course I didn’t believe Dakota’s stories about the man in the tall brown hat who took her away when she was eight (Dakota was four at the time). Probably something her mom had cooked up and fed to her with a healthy portion of cake and tea.
But then, something happened to change my mind: Bev and Frank had to go out of town all a sudden. They asked me to take Dakota. Against my better judgement, I agreed, knowing all weekend, I’d have to hear the story of the man in the tall brown hat, which, frankly, sounded more Seussical than anything else. They dropped the kid off and plopped her on the couch, tossed us a few air kisses and then lit on out of here. Dakota kind of smiled at me, clapped her hands and asked for a box of raisins, which I was happy to give her. Just because I didn’t take a shine to the child, didn’t mean I wasn’t kind to her. I opened the raisins for her and watched her wiggle a fat finger into the box. She worried out one small raisin. And then she opened her mouth and began to talk.
“There was an empty lot next door, with short cement steps leading up to nothing but air, and a for sale sign swinging in the barren and sand swept yard.” Dakota stared ahead, looking at nothing, seeing everything.
“What are you saying, child?”
Dakota looked at me then. “You killed him, didn’t you?”
I covered my mouth with my hand. Didn’t know what else to do.
“You killed him and then set that house on fire.”
“He beat me,” I said. “Every day after school, he waited for me. Punched me till I was black and blue.”
After six months, I couldn’t take it any more. Hadn’t meant to kill him. Only wanted to fight back. But once the flame of the fight is in me, it’s hard to put it out.
Dakota put a raisin in her mouth, chewed it in silence. “He says he’s still waiting for you.”
This was written for this week’s Master Class prompt from Karen White’s The Beach Tree:
“There was an empty lot next door, with short cement steps leading up to nothing but air, and a for sale sign swinging in the barren and sand swept yard.”