“Shelter” by Kim Addonizio

It’s noisy here. The kids run around, screaming, their mothers slap them and
they cry. I have the bottom bunk, I hang a blanket from the bed above me for
privacy. In the middle of the night it’s finally quiet. I lie awake and think
about goals. Sheryl, the worker, says I need some. She says What do you want
Rita? and I say peace and quiet, maybe someplace sunnier than here. I say I’d
like to have a dog. A big one, a retriever or shepherd with long soft fur. What
else? she says. I remember my dad’s garden, how I used to like sitting with
him while he weeded, putting my toes in the dirt. He grew tomatoes, corn, peas.
There was a rosebush, too, once he let me pick a big rose and there was a spider
in it, I got scared and shook it and the petals went all over me and he laughed.
He showed me how to put my thumb over the hoze nozzle so it sprayed. Sheryl
says I could garden. I think about the coleus Jimmy and I had, how I would take
cuttings, put them in water and they’d grow more flowers. But then they all
died. At night I listen to everybody sleep around me, some people snoring, some
starting to say something and then stopping. It’s pitch-dark behind the
blanket. I try to see it sunny, a yard with a dog lying down under a tree. I
try to smell warm tomatoes. Curl my toes in the sheets. Try to sleep.

“Shelter” by Kim Addonizio, from Jimmy & Rita. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 1997.