To Check On The Shotgun
Michelle Gottschlich


I wanted to write a poem
when that reprobate girl
who lived across the street
climbed in my bedroom window.
We were once plucky prepubescents
debating on the hush of my innocent quilt
what Sex is. Thought of trying it for practice.
She, who wore Smackers blue lip-gloss
and stole sarcastic buttons from Spencers,
handed me an apple. “It’ll make you trip,”
she teased, disappearing with a wink.
I bit the apple and fell asleep.
I woke up ten years
before now. I was twelve
and swimming underwater
in my father’s pool. I shouted secrets
to my older sister. “My boobs are bigger!”
I yelled, the words sluggish and garbled.
When we surfaced she laughed, “Huh?”
Ducking back under I called to her
“You got hair down there!”
and pointed my finger
to her bathing suit bottoms.
“What?” she squeaked
as a Charlie Brown frown
inched over the happy cantaloupe
her smile once was.
I choked on the water,
floated into the filter.
I washed up onto the backyard patio
where I was four years old
selling pretend food
from my PlaySkool house
for pretend money.
“A hot dog!” Mother ordered.
I pulled a bloodied Band Aid
from the pink pot and lisped a spell.
“Only bwoccoli today,”
I told her, clapping plates and bowls
on the hollow countertops.
“You’ll make such a good mommy,”
she said, rubbing her soft belly
full of the comfort of intestinal rhymes
and goose eggs.
I peeked my head in the pretend oven
to check on the shotgun,
fell inside.
(I wanted to write a poem.)
I opened my eyes
to a well, dark and humid.
I looked up into the oculus above me,
framed by a grandstand of teeth, tongue,
and gummy tonsils. A man in a paper mask
stared down at me. He shook his head,
disapproving. With his fore and middle fingers
reaching toward me, he said,
Don’t worry
my darling,
this will only hurt
a little.