My daughters’ voices pretend in the attic.
They’ve set up house there,
the skinny ladder disappearing into the ceiling.
I’m lying on my workbench,
towels under my head.
Pretend, Molly says to Anna in the attic,
that I’m your sister and our dad died.
A car drives up at my neighbors’ house,
I see a dirty headlight.
My teenage neighbor, who is having a party,
comes out onto her driveway,
and the way she holds the door for her friend
reminds me of Molly
when she is a traffic monitor at her elementary school,
but this driver steps out crying,
and she yells to my neighbor:
My mom is a fucking bitch!
I take Molly to school early
so she can be a traffic monitor.
She pretends that she doesn’t see me
sitting in my truck in the parking lot
making sure she is okay.
She wears a yellow safety sash,
opens doors, lets kids out, never smiles.
Good morning, welcome to school,
pretend I’m your sister,
pretend you are my brother,
pretend our parents are dead.
Russ Franklin lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and teaches at Florida State University. He has a short story in the current issue of Fiction. (4/2011)