Ganymede by Chelsea Harris

Daddy bought a trailer in Leisure Woods Mobile Home Park when I was a freshman in high school. The owners before us were in their seventies, stabbed in the heart and the neck by a couple high on junk, looking for money. Daddy got it for a steal. They replaced the carpet before we moved in. He said, Baby I know it’s not much but it’s something. That’s what everyone says in Leisure Woods, I know it’s not much but it’s something, as if something, whatever it is, is enough.

The walls are stacked with wood paneling. There’s a chip in the refrigerator door, right by the handle. I didn’t even know a fridge could chip. There’s a futon and a mattress on the floor, a Lay-Z-Boy in the corner by the TV. Daddy buys top ramen and Busch Light and fudgesicles. Daddy tells me he’ll take me clothes shopping one of these days, trade out my Faded Glory for something from the strip mall.

I pull a pop from its greasy sleeve and toss the wrapper on the floor. The TV is on, always. When I was a kid I’d pretend it was my momma. When we’d make gifts for Mother’s Day at school, folded sheets of construction paper with lopsided hearts strung on their covers, booklets of coupons labeled with UNLOAD DISHWASHER and PUT AWAY THE GROCERIES, necklaces laced with clay beads, I’d give them to the TV. I’d lay them on the carpet at its feet, place them on its head, try and stick them in the VCR. I’d say, I love you, Momma. I’d say, Happy Mother’s Day. The TV would flash, would shine its gritty, pixelated teeth.

Outside the trailer there’s a rusted bike, a molded canopy, an old grill smothered in bits of charcoaled scraps, in gallons of grease. There is also a boy. He lives next door. The first thing he said to me was, Did you know that the Ganymede moon is the largest moon in the solar system? We play planets every day after school now. Sometimes he lets me be Ganymede. He says they named it after Ganymede the Trojan prince. He was gay, he tells me. He scrunches his face into a zit and we don’t talk about it again for a long, long time.

We’re on my daddy’s mattress and she’s touching me all over. Her name is Carmela and she’s two grades above me and lives four trailers down, three over. Afterward, we count the pockmarks in the ceiling. She turns to me and scans my face, says, I gave up after eleven. I don’t know if she’s talking about herself or the ceiling. I knew them, she says. She sits up, tosses the sheet off her legs. I think one of them died in here. I knew this wasn’t true, but I let her have it. Sometimes that’s the nicest thing you can do for someone.

Turns out Ganymede wasn’t gay, just pretty. Tonight I am Venus. We’re sitting on top of the kitchen counters. Daddy hasn’t been back in days but I’m not worried. The boy says that there is life on Mars. That he wants to be Mars. I rub my finger on the splintered wood beneath the lip of the countertop. A shard stuffs itself inside my skin, like sheets in a dryer. It is a part of me now, the wood, and I don’t even flinch.

 

Chelsea Harris has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Portland Review, Literary Orphans, Grimoire, and Minola Review, among others. She is the co-curator of Wallpaper Magazine and received her MFA from Columbia College Chicago.

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