Alaska Shorts: Queen for a Day, by Monica Devine

Author Monica Devine

mother’s not coming.  Jesus Christ, my
child just died and I can’t be entertaining your mother
. The weight
and warmth of my blissful motherhood blood turned ice cold with the thought of
her saying- it’ll be fine dear, in time –with
her youthful 72 year old pink-lined lips and eyes all a sparkle.
thought of slogging through a funeral full of other people’s tears made my
stomach turn. I can’t cater to happy people right now. Good for her replacing a
husband in less than a year. I can’t get a new child. I’m glad she’s happy.
pulled an afghan over my shoulders and sank down into the couch. A slam of wind
and another rush of rain rummaged through the metal gutters like trapped
liked the rain. She used to sit on the front porch and watch lightening storms.
She caught all things quick:  an arcing
shooting star, a coyote trace across a darkened roadbed, a fleeting facial
expression she couldn’t name.  Mom, did you see that girl’s hair, she’d
say as the object of her desire melted into the crowd. 
never brought me closer to the divine. Kyra and me, we were part of the divine
already, just living every day. We participated.
day one to eleven years and 17 days, we were divine. There was holy, sweet
smelling divine when her fisted little hands grabbed hold of my hair as I
diapered her. There was dopey sugar coated divine when I left her birthday cake
in the oven too long. Geez, mom, how
could you burn it.
After the party, I apologized, and we stayed up all
night eating popcorn and drawing pictures of hearts and horses.
was the dirty hollowed out divine when I threw a glass of wine at her father
after he confessed that his massage “therapy” had turned into sex. He said female client, I said another woman. He said touched her inappropriately, I said brought her to orgasm. Good ol’
semantics; I was never good at hurling gracefully veiled insults, but inanimate
objects do me just fine.
divine by nature, aren’t we?
I forgot to set the alarm and she grew tired of being late for school, Kyra
saved her allowance and bought her own alarm.
huh. One divine moment after another.
time after infinite begging, I let her cut my hair, just like at the beauty
salon. I like to think I trusted her; hell it’s only hair…it’ll grow back.
the cut, she pranced around the house like she was queen for a day, like she
could do anything.
want to be a hairdresser when I grow up,” she said.
said, “…teacher or nurse”, and she said, “…no, Mom, I’m good at this.”
she was brilliant.  
now he’s calling me about his mother coming. She wants to be here for us. But I
can’t take her happiness …not now.
she touches turns to gold; she simply wills it. When rain beats in slants on
the windows, she finds a hidden rainbow. Makes lemonade out of lemons with
exaggerated exuberance. As if cherished sons don’t die everyday in a worthless
war half way around the world (we don’t talk about it). As if a third of the
world’s children aren’t dying of starvation (what we don’t see doesn’t exist).
the cotton candy spinning and look the other way. Pick yourself up by the
bootstraps and get on with it. To mention
is to dwell. To acknowledge is to
dwell. To empathize is to dwell.
Smile instead. Have a nice day!  
is the divine right now?  Is it in this
hard skull holding in my sloshing brain? In my heaving gut and unshaved legs?
Is my skin divine if only he touches it, without the stain of another woman’s
him was nothing; he’s one of many possibilities.
Kyra was the shard that completed me, a wedge of love that penetrated my core;
made me whole. It’s that deep, and infinitely more. 
all this rain we’re having, clods of dirt drop loose and my bones are shaking.
Little by little I’m eroding.
can’t attune myself
to others right now; tell her to stay home. 
Monica Devine
is an award-winning author of children’s books, poetry, and prose. She took
first place in the 2012
Alaska Statewide Poetry Contest, and her children’s
book, Iditarod, was a nominee for the celebrated Golden Kite Award. Her photo
essays can be viewed on her blog Between Two Rivers at

If you’re an Alaska author or you’ve written about Alaska, submit your creative work, either in full or an excerpt 800 words or less, for publication in our 49 Writers Alaska Shorts series.

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