At Five In My Bedroom
by Lana Hechtman Ayers

In my window Orion’s belt sparkles green with a sword that can grant wishes. My walls are green too, like the walls at Mercy Hospital where Grandma is knitted into machines.

At night the walls turn black and are made of outer space where Orion travels with his hunting dogs. I have no dogs, only a cat named Bell who ran away. Sound leaks in from the other side of the universe where my parents are smoking, and the television keeps laughing. I like the sound of rain on glass better, like sticks cracking underfoot.

The rusty, squeaky old baby carriage in my room is full of bent Barbies and mixed up puzzles. It’s the carriage my mom used to push me around in, and my brother before me. A jewelry box on the nightstand is white with red roses and when you lift the lid a plastic ballerina spins. Grandma gave me this. The music doesn’t play anymore. I forget what the song was. It was soft as Bell’s purr.

The floor’s bare wood except for the square faded pink bathroom rug. I have a purple lamp with a base like a bubble and a shade like a doll skirt. There’s no bulb in it. Dad said he’d get one sometime.

My room smells like cigarettes because my brother’s room in right in back of mine. And I can smell the camphor in my blanket, yellow with waffle squares like the felt we use at school to make animal cutouts.

I get splinters from my dresser. It’s raw pine, Daddy says. I scribbled on the side of it with an orange crayon when I was little. I don’t think he spanked me.

I’m not allowed to have books in my room anymore, my punishment for forgetting to take my plate to the sink after dinner. So I make up my own stories and make-believe friends who like me. I see Bell curled up on the dresser once in a while and hear her tiny snores.

Before Grandma got sick she told me cats go to heaven too. Sometimes I see the mean man in the moon crescent like a chewed-off fingernail or his full face, wearing a fake smile. When I see Orion up there with his dogs, I wish on that sword. I won’t say what I wish or it will never come true.

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