Excerpt from “The Poor Children” by April L. Ford


by April L. Ford

runawaybitch13 (9:06 pm):

u there?

Dargelos23 (9:06 pm):


runawaybitch13 (9:06 pm):

sorry we had a fight 2day

Dargelos23 (9:06 pm):

we did?

runawaybitch13 (9:07 pm):

didnt we?

Dargelos23 (9:07 pm):

i guess. im sorry 2

In grade seven, the worst grade of my life until I met Justin, there were three other M—’s in my class. M— Grant who stuffed her bra for science class with Mr. Andrews, M— Frank who went to third base with her brother on Friday nights after their father went drinking for boys’ night, and M— Smith who I felt bad for because there was nothing remarkable about her and everybody wants to leave their mark in the world. My homeroom teacher laughed like I had told some sort of cute joke when I decided to change my name, and then she had the balls to tell the class how when she was thirteen she had fantasized about changing her name too because she thought it would improve her. She didn’t believe me when I said my self-esteem wasn’t the issue. The first time I signed a test with my new name, Miss Folio put an X over it and gave me zero on ten even though I had spelled every word perfect including the bonus word deceet. Then she called my parents in for a parent-teacher meeting, and I had to sit outside the classroom while she yapped away, and then my parents came out all sour-faced and took me home in the kind of silence that usually meant you’re grounded. When we got home, my father asked if everybody wanted pizza, which was ridiculous because “everybody” was just us because my grandmother had D—, and so I knew Miss Fucking Folio had told some lie about me. While we waited for the pizza to arrive, my parents decided we should all sit in the living room and have a family moment.

Are dark colors the new trend?” my mother asked.


Is that what the cool kids wear now?” my father asked.

They’re not cool.”

What happened to the pink scarf your grandmother knitted?” my mother asked.

I don’t know.”

Why?” my father asked.


When the pizza arrived, my father tipped the deliveryman with pocket change like he was giving him diamonds, and my mother set the dinner table as if this was a hugely important task. She fluttered around the kitchen collecting plates, utensils, cups, and flat soda, all jumpy and round-bellied like a robin in her countryside apron. Whenever we went shopping I tried to make her get something new, like a V-neck instead of a turtleneck or a pair of jeans instead of corduroys with patches sewn on the knees to make them look used, but her excuse was always the same: She preferred life’s little simplicities and these fads I went through, these “stages of life”, would eventually become tiresome to me and I would find pleasure in the same things as her. Holy fuck, my grandmother had better sense.

Anyway, the pizza arrived and we ate it, and then came more questions.

You wear makeup now,” my mother said.

It’s eyeliner.”

Why? Your face is so pretty all natural,” my father said.

Like my name?”

I felt bad slapping him like that. Of course I didn’t really slap him, but that’s how it looked because he squinted and patted his cheek. But then that was complete BS because my father could make himself cry on command. He would do it for fun sometimes, like when we played a game of Risk and I won, though most times he did it when he wanted something from my mother, like sex or forgiveness for not coming straight home after boys’ night with M— Frank’s father. I don’t know, to tell you the truth, if my father had any real sad feelings about anything except for the night he got lost on a winter hunting trip with his friend Jeffrey. I think he really regretted it when the rescue team found Jeffrey with only some bottom teeth left where his head used to be—he’d chomped down good on his .45-70 lever-action rifle because he’d been too scared of a little frostbite. Plus they had been hunting protected bison so my father got a double fine for him and his dead accomplice.

What’s wrong with your name, M?”

It’s common.”


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