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Out of Reach

“Rachel’s gone.” My aunt lobs the news across the silence between her rocking chair and my place on the velvet settee.

My hand freezes above the faded balsam fabric. “Rachel Horowitz? When?”

August; maybe September. It was humid, not the type of day to stand around in a graveyard.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I knew you’d come for Christmas.”

 “But, we’ve spoken on the phone a dozen times since?” I stumble then pull the thread of conversation. “How’s Isaac coping?”

“Who knows?” Aunt Helen scoffs. “He hasn’t seen his father since the funeral; calls from all the way out there in Cal-i-for-nia. You kids go off and never look back.”

Handing my suitcase to the cab driver I turn to wave, “Goodbye.” I fall into the backseat, relief washing through me. The airport gift-shop offers two choices for sympathy cards, narrowing the worry of how to choose for someone I haven’t spoken to for twenty years. Your mother was always so kind I write beneath the printed sentiment then seal the envelope quickly. I find Isaac’s address on my Blackberry and apply the stamp.

Snow falls softly outside my kitchen window offering a pure start to the New Year. I wrap my hand around a favorite mug and lean it’s warmth to my chest; cap a bagel and cream cheese with lox,
capers and a thick slice of red onion. Closing the Tupperware of onion slices, I listen for the familiar vacuum seal. The ‘burp’ pierces my memory, hollows my stomach and unfolds the truth.

Isaac was my first friend when I moved to Aunt Helen’s. From my bedroom I could look down into his kitchen. His father would sit across the table from his mother, Isaac between them. Rachel, a large rectangle like the table, his father slight like the handle of Isaac’s dancing fork.

I wrapped the curtain around me and mimicked the movement of Isaac’s lips as he waved his fork like a conductor’s baton. I whispered, “Niiigh-t of the living Tupp-er-ware!” chorusing the song
he’d invented that afternoon. I giggled into the saffron fabric, recalling hours spent on his front porch surrounded by pieces of his mother’s Tupperware. Avocado green, burnt orange, mustard yellow, the ensemble cast in Isaac’s imaginary variety show that included songs, dances, and commercial interruptions. I rubbed the rough curtain against the furrow between my brows. I would have to tell Isaac not to perform for the kids at school; Isaac didn’t realize the armor
required to survive fourth grade.

Returning my attention, Rachel’s mouth was wide and quick. Hurling her words across the table, she blazed a path towards Isaac.  The thwack of adult fist against child cheek; lifted my shoulders as my body curled, rolling to the floor. Eyes shut tight, leaking the moisture of assault; my cheeks depressed to suck in the sting. My thoughts folded and creased this truth in on itself, over and over, making it small enough to slide into darkness.

The ringing phone breaks the memory into tiny circles that dissolve as they fall to the floor. Rising from the table I pull the neck of my pink terrycloth bathrobe closed and feel the moisture of absorbed tears. Reaching for the receiver I wonder which memories Isaac summons to eulogize his mother; which song he sings for himself.

Caller ID announces an unfamiliar number capped with the heading CALIFORNIA; answers arriving from the boy who moved out of reach?


J. M. Sirrico earned a Masters’ Degree in Library Science. She works several part-time jobs outside of this field to support her writing habit. Cape Cod Massachusetts is the beautiful place she calls home. Contact her at


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