February 2, 2020

“Chicken Wire Wings” by Siobhan Manrique

Robin wiped and stared. A smear of red and black stared back at her. She watched it a moment more; then, refusing to accept it as real, she dropped the soiled toilet paper into the trash. Surely a second wipe would prove that the stain was gone, that it had been momentary, imaginary.

A moment later, she pulled up her hand-me-down jeans and washed her hands at the always-cold-water sink with the economically watered-down hand soap. She washed her hands a second time, and then a third time, refusing to face the mirror, although she had to cast a distrustful glance at it on her way out of the room.

“Mom.”

Her mother was deep in her early afternoon slumber but managed to give an unconcerned grunt.

“Mom,” Robin repeated, pawing at her mother’s shoulder in the artificial darkness of the bedroom. “Mom, there’s something wrong with me.”

“I know.” Her mom rubbed at her drowsy eyes and shifted to lie on her side, facing Robin. “I saw your art project. Why’d you draw an angel with chicken wire wings?”

“Those aren’t chicken wire wings—they’re feather wings! But listen to me, Mom! There’s something wrong with my body! I wiped and there was black and red stuff!”

“That just means you’re on your period.”

The girl was silent. A punctuation mark had nothing to do with the goo coming out of her body when all she wanted to do was pee.

“You know what a period is, right, honey?” her mom asked, words slurred by sleepiness as she turned her back to the girl again.

“…Duh.”

“All right. Let me sleep a bit now, okay? By the way, I put your drawing on the fridge, your chicken wire angel. Very nice.”

Robin opened her mouth to tell her mother for the last time that those wings were made of feathers and not of chicken wire, to demand to know why a period was making her produce blackish goo, to ask her why she was always so sleepy and what they were going to do for dinner. She opened her mouth to spit fire. But her mother spoke first.

“Don’t worry about your period…and there are pads under the sink, sweepy,” her mother said, pronouncing “sweet pea” in that way of hers that simultaneously conveyed affection and hinted at a chore to be done.

Robin stared at the slowly breathing lump of blankets and the frazzled mane of brown that was her mother. She went back to the bathroom and fumbled around but could find no pads, only a dusty, empty package that used to contain pads. She sat on the toilet again not because she had to pee but because she wanted to wipe and prove to herself that her period was imaginary. But she ended up facing the red-black goo again, and it struck her that the goo was actually blood, and that an angel with chicken wire wings would never be able to fly.

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About the Author: Siobhan Manrique is a middle school English teacher in rural Arizona. She earned her B.A. in English and Certificate in Creative Writing at Northern Arizona University. Her poetry, nonfiction, and short fiction have appeared in Milkyway Magazine, Talking Writing, Fearsome Critters, and others. She lives in a mining town with her husband, dogs, and drought-tolerant plants. Her published work is available at https://www.sbhnmanrique.com.

Siobhan Manrique Author Photo

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