The Smart Girl

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

The Smart Girl

Magdalena Moore

was the smartest girl

in our village

her father Patrick Moore 

was the county comptroller

so we figured she got her brains from him

and his wife Haldora Thorsen

who was in charge of the DNA splicing lab

at the fission plant

it was Haldora who labelled us

as monochromatic bores

who only cared about or health

when the villagers complained

about run off from the plant

 

Magdalena had copper hair

that glittered with flecks 

of purple blue in the sunset 

it was impossible not to be mesmerized

when she shook it loose

to cascade over her shoulders

 

all the boys

had a crush on her

they would pester her with small gifts

carved moose bones

robin spoons

all of which she accepted

with her bird-like laugh

all of which would show up

 

at the choir’s annual garage sale

no one cared 

that she was wheel-chair bound

it added to her allure

for she had been born

with her legs fused together

from her crotch to her ankles

she did have feet

but the toes were also fused together

she made no secret of this

 

her mother claimed

there was no relation to Magdalena’s

fusion and the fission plan

or the genetic alterations in the moose

her work in genetics

proved that these things happened

with no prior cause

things change

 

Magdalena did change

as she grew older

she became bored of being

the smartest girl in the village

she longed to be an ordinary person

 

she became abusive

with anyone who said

I see you as a whole person

not as someone with fused legs

your real person is so much more

than that

besides you have such a pretty smile

 

she replied

if you don’t see them

you don’t see the real me

transcending my body

denies the full real me

 

when she got like this

people would pat her head

touch her hands to sooth her

or her mother would medicate her

it didn’t matter 

how smart she was

as long as she was compliant

 

one summer her parents

entered her in the  

Village Queen Beauty Contest

along with several other virgins

her talent was yodelling

because she was so brave

the judges were willing

to give her a pass on the swim suit

part of the contest

but she refused to take it

she rolled on the stage

at the end of the docks

wearing a bikini top

of two maple leaves

a beach towel to cover her

then she pulled the towel away

flaunting her fused legs

for all the world to see

 

at first people were too shocked

to look away

before they could react

she threw herself into the water

her parents sat

on the edge of the pier

weeping

hoping their tears

could lure her back

 

when they found her body

two days later

her legs were no longer fused

This a brand new Village Story. I wrote some fresh ones to have enough to post this summer. I wanted to see if I could return to the voice of my narrator and also challenge myself with more contemporary issues. In this case disability. It is also an echo of one of the earlier pieces: Consumption https://wp.me/p1RtxU-1gr.

Followers of my blog will also see the influence of Andrew Gurza‘s Disability After Dark podcast. He talks clearly about representation & acceptance. I wanted write about those issues while working them into the fabric of this mythology. I hope I’ve struck a balance between irony & compassion & humour.  

I revisit the unwillingness of commerce to be accountable for their actions: i.e. the fission plant’s genetic damage to the villagers. A denial that continues even when one of the victim’s is their own children. It makes me think of the Flint water crisis clearly caused by industry but no one has offered a solution merely blame.

I touch on that ablism that happens when people think they are being sensitive – ‘you have such a pretty smile’ – Implying that the smile is some sort of compensation for the damaged body, so cheer up. The medicating is another of those avoidances. When the disabled try to bring attention to their needs they are often considered uncooperative & truculent. It’s easier to medicate them than listen to them. 

The ending is harsh but I wanted to push out of my comfort zone. Andrew has been told, more than once, by an abled person that if they were as disabled as he they would probably kill themselves and that he was so brave. I also wanted to avoid the obvious ending – she turns into a mermaid & swims away. So went for that harsh ending.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

One thought on “The Smart Girl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.