by Carol Novack

One day, Aleda, the motherless girl with the two humps on her back, refused to come out and play and declined formal schooling.  She had suffered the taunts far too long:  “Camel, camel, ride that camel,” the children would shout, daring each other to climb on Aleda’s back; they had even tried a few times.

Aleda removed the dust and cobwebs from her grandmother’s old loom in the cellar and began to weave a story of her authentic self.  She began with her past, portraying her mother in tender blues and her own birth in violent reds. Then she used black and gray yarn to color the mean children.  Her grandmother was a faded mauve and her father a strong, comfortable green, like a lawn on which she could sleep and dream.  He protected her from truant officers and meddlesome neighbors.  Aleda was a barely discernible color, always but never present, an oddly shaped color, meandering in and out of the others.

Because laws demanded that Aleda receive schooling, the authorities assigned a woman named Penelope to become her teacher.   Penelope, who’d lost her child to a reckless driver, and her lover to a war, introduced Aleda to
herself, by way of the great books.  Penelope gave the child the mirror of humanity; taught her to see the neighborhood children in new lights, so they were no longer black and gray; imbued Aleda
with the courage to view herself.

Penelope turned the full-length mirror in the child’s bedroom around so that it no longer faced the wall.  Imperceptibly, she introduced Aleda to her face, forehead, eyes to nose to chin, then her neck, evolving breasts, tender genitals, all the way down to her toes.  When she was comfortable with her reflection, Aleda asked for a mirror so she could see her back.  She gazed at her humps, and thought:   perhaps, they’re not so hideous after all.

As years turned to memory, Aleda’s color grew stronger and more definite, until she emerged as lusciously curved lavender, complementing the rainbow of colors that was Penelope.

On the day she turned 17, Aleda set forth from her house when the sun was at its apex.  She walked through the town and tasted everything she saw with all of her senses.  She knew the people down to their bones, as she knew each blade of grass in the village green, feeling its growing.

Nobody recognized the woman who passed by softly on the stones.

New Yorker Carol Novack is a lapsed criminal defense and constitutional lawyer who authored a book of poetry in Australia, where she received a writer’s grant equivalent to an NEA. Her writings are or will be forthcoming in many publications, including The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets, Anemone Sidecar, Big Bridge, Diagram, Laura Hird, Mindfire Renewed, Muse Apprentice Guild, Newtopia, Opium, Pindeldyboz, Ravenna Hotel and SmokeLong Quarterly. Carol’s prose poem “Destination” was selected as a “best” of Web Del Sol fiction at Sol EScene. Carol publishes and edits Mad Hatters’ Review: http://www.madhattersreview.com.

Contact Carol at: nettlesomenell@yahoo.com.