The clock on the kitchen wall talked to her. The second hand moved and taunted her: Follow me, little Janey. Her eyes circled around with the sweeping hand. In the next room, grownup voices threatened each other. "Fuck you." "How could you?" "Go to hell." "No money."
She put her hands over her ears, but the voices were like trains. She ran upstairs. Her cardboard jewelry box held her aunt's amber brooch, and a bug was paralyzed in the transparent yellow. Janey got the brooch and rubbed it as if it were a magic lamp. She still heard her parents shouting downstairs.
She had asked for money to go to the science museum with her class. It was her fault. She wanted to see the dinosaur skeleton, the monster of her imagination made real in unmoving and undangerous bones. Her head buzzed and she wanted to stop the bees. Melissa, who was two grades higher at school, said she tried her father's gin for a different kind of buzz. Marlayna scratched herself. Ruth got pneumonia. Janey wanted to be a scientist, cure people, and make a lot of money, take her parents on a vacation to Tahiti or Scotland, which had rumors of Loch Ness monsters, but only rumors. Lindsay said her parents were monsters, and once she ate dirt.
Janey's parents screamed but they weren't monsters. She also wanted to be a ballerina who could fly through the air and stop on one pointed foot, a spear of silence. She would kill all the monsters and put their bones in museums.
Yesterday, as she walked to school in the rain, a dark car stopped in front of her. A man rolled down the window and leaned out his head. She thought he stopped for directions. She was happy to be of use. She got A's in school. "Would you like a ride?" he said. He was bald and missing front teeth. He smiled in a welcoming way. He stroked the base of his throat.
She combed her hair with her fingers. His gaze was warm and inviting. He was like a bald Santa Claus. "No, thank you," she said, doing what her parents had told her about accepting rides from strangers. She took a step back.
He tilted his head toward her. "You have a wonderful day." The car turned at the corner and sped away.
"Thank you very much," she said. As she thought about it today, she felt pins in the front of her throat. When she grew up, these things would not happen to her.
Her aunt Sybil worked for an advertising agency in New York City. That sounded glamorous. Maybe Janey would do that when she grew up. She rubbed the amber brooch. She'd heard it was magnetic to paper. She tore a tissue and touched it to the amber. The shred floated into her lap.
What if she ate the amber? Could she move time? She dropped the brooch, stepped on it. The brooch cracked, but the fly was still in the center. It was tiny.
Cezarija Abartis has published a collection, Nice Girls and Other Stories (New Rivers Press) and stories in Baltimore Review, Bennington Review, Gone Lawn, matchbook and New York Tyrant, among others. Recently she completed a crime novel. She lives and writes in Minnesota.