by Beate Sigriddaughter

Blues and greens glint in the windows of The Mermaid Parlor. Tiny sequins, I think. I always like to see behind the magic of things.

The four of us sit on a lacquered bench outside, Gordon in deep conversation about Snow White with nine-year-old Elena. I am proud of him for being so conversant in fairy tales with our two daughters. You wouldn’t expect it of him, a Vietnam vet with horrors lurking in his soul that I know exceed anything in the grimmest of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I love the sweetness and seriousness with which he honors our daughters and their preoccupations. In the warm breeze, I indulge in my own daydreams, so I am not following their conversation. He must have just said something hilarious because Elena bursts into a peal of laughter before she resumes licking daintily around the outside of the pale green ice cream in her waffle cone.

Cindy, only seven and a half, sits next to me petting the plush pink rabbit in her lap. She won it three days ago in a shop on the boardwalk just half a block down from where we are sitting now, and she hasn’t parted from it for even a minute except to take a bath, and even then, it lies on the closed toilet lid right next to the tub. When she goes into the ocean, and she never goes far, she keeps it high against her shoulder and it has never yet fallen in. She, too, is now studying Gordon and Elena while stroking the rabbit’s pink fur. Suddenly I see slow tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Cindy, what’s the matter?” I touch her wet cheek.

“She has an ice cream,” Cindy says.

I don’t think this is the time to point out that when we were at the ice cream stand a few minutes earlier, she didn’t want one. “Come on, I’ll get you one,” I say instead.

Cindy avoids my eyes and turns her head from side to side as tears keep rolling. “I want hers.”

Elena has heard this and already holds out her still amply filled waffle cone. “Here.”

“No,” Cindy whispers. She keeps shaking her head slowly and looking down into her lap at the pink rabbit that now catches a few of her tears.

I understand exactly what she means. The joy. The laughter. And at this moment none of us know how to give it to her.

Beate Sigriddaughter lives in Silver City, New Mexico (Land of Enchantment), where she was poet laureate from 2017 to 2019. Her latest collections are short stories Dona Nobis Pacem (Unsolicited Press, 2021) and poetry Wild Flowers (FutureCycle Press, 2022). Check her out at www.sigriddaughter.net.