Light ain’t been the same since we got the TV. We don’t light candles no more; we got flames and smoke in front of us always. If I change the bunny ears before bed, the snow reaches all the way to my room, polestars and quicksilver moons. It scares me more than the dark, and I ain’t scared of the dark, not since I know it come every night but don’t stay.

I tells Ma we change since we got the TV, but then she says people don’t change; days do. And I reckon that’s true, like when she says the earth don’t break but it does crack, or we ain’t living but we surviving. And that’s true, no doubt, so it all must be, but Cash don’t reckon. He knows that he changed, and that’s enough.

I see him hate more. He hates everything but don’t seem to get mad at anything. Maybe Ma’s right, I tells him. Then he tells me I changed the most; look and see. But I can’t see without the candles—not the real me, the most me. Lightbulbs have fake light, and the TV has too many pictures. We turn it off and then it’s like the funhouse. I miss the flame, all the people in it. Candles and lanterns burn down houses, but never souls. That’s why I can’t eat out of the cookie jars in the china cabinet.

I tell him Ma has to be right because Pa ain’t changed. Life worn him down already, Ma done. He sits in his rocking chair that don’t rock, a puddle except for his head. That looks like a bird head when the ants get through with it. Ma told me not to touch them, but you gotta touch Pa, no matter how you feel.

He slaps his knees so I know to sit down. He rocks his knee because there ain’t no rocks in the chair. His hands are cold on my shoulders, his little fingers under the straps always. He can’t take no notice of Gunsmoke or Bonanza anymore; he can’t even get excited when the guns go pop. I guess I don’t know what excites you when life worn you down.

Sometimes I pray I don’t find out like Cash and Amelia done.


At supper, we usually eat out of the foil pans, but today’s Sunday, and Sunday means God don’t want to see us eat out of the foil pans. So’s we eat at the dining table where His picture ain’t hung up. After grace, Pa usually says his Sacred Heart is giving him pains.

Cash and Amelia prep potatoes and carrots. They don’t let me help because I’m too small; also, I would cut myself, and no doubt if I could reach the sugar or anything anyways I would eat it all, so they can’t hand nothing to me neither. Well, I think if you gave anyone the sugar jar, they would eat it all, don’t matter how young, how Christian.

So’s instead they give me the last drop of the coffee pot so they can prepare a new one. Sometimes I just leave my lips on the rim of the cup, nice and warm while I imagine the burning. I still stay up the night without. I need to confess, repent, because I hear all the secrets, everything that goes bump in the night. I absolve myself of my sins, so that I know and they know, and I know they know.

Last night, Cash got mad at Amelia for her bedroom eyes. I don’t know what other eyes you should have in the bedroom. He’s mad most when he has shame, but he isn’t angry because then he has his own bedroom eyes I hear. Cash leaves to get more water and I tell Amelia I know but I can’t tell Cash because then he would have shame.

But now I know Amelia has shame.

She calls me Ann, Anna, Anne, in that order. She knows how I hate that. My name is Annabelle, because it also rings. She turns away from me and mashes the potatoes. She bound to add too much milk.

That ruins everything.


At supper, we pray more than talk. I put all my thoughts in my hands and release them like butterflies. I wonder if God catches them; I know they don’t live too long. And nobody prays as long as me; guess that’s what happens when you’re old enough to be trusted with the sugar. I don’t mind not talking, because my mouth is full and my head is empty.

Even the TV don’t interest anymore. I want to laugh at something Miss Kitty says, but I’m afraid they won’t find it funny. Pa says Ma and Amelia are like Miss Kitty, but I don’t have the heart to tell him she didn’t live like us. But maybe she did, and he saw the world just like they did in Gunsmoke, with the weird light.

Cash and Amelia stare at each other after praying, but Ma and Pa don’t look nowhere. Even I start to miss the TV. That’s where the people are.


Bedtime and it’s snowing inside. Cash and Amelia yell at each other in hushed whispers; Ma and Pa talk without saying anything. It’s a night aplenty, like any other night. Like Ma says: spring night leads into a summer night. One of those nights will lead to the fall, and then the winter.


Sometimes I dream of trains passing in the night, and a dog barks at each one as they go on their long ways to nowheres.