Susan Rukeyser wants this to go no further

Mother Lies

We’ll keep this between us, okay?
    Yesterday, my boy was wild.  He whooped and circled, dodged the tall thin trunks of Longleaf Pines.  Bare feet stamped a forest floor soft with the dead and dying.  Here and there, a sharp pine cone brought a yelp.  His torso was sleek and streaked red with clay, like war paint, or blood.  In one hand: a stick meant to be a pistol; in the other, a chunk of quartz he dug from the ground for me.
    When the sun winked good night and the trees loomed dark, he brought me my gift.  His breath was quick from all the running, and curls clung damp to his cheeks, his throat.  He smelled of the earth.  In the blur as he moved: a glimpse of the man he’ll be.    
    Tonight he’s expected at school.  They’re displaying model cities built from kits.  My son stands before me, spine straight, chin high, like I tell him.  His dress shoes—oh, he hates them—whisper over carpet.  I smell the thick white bar of soap, the kids’ shampoo.  Deodorant blooms from beneath each arm; he started wearing it this year.  I bought it all, I can’t complain.  His button-down oxford stinks of dry cleaning.  
    Downstairs, my husband jingles car keys.  
    I coo, “My little man, my gentleman,” and tuck a curl behind his ear.  He offers a bashful smile, as if he’s willing to pretend with me, that this is good.  
    I miss the savage.  I prefer him.  But I’m not supposed to, so I don’t tell—Only you.  
    My little gentleman buckles his seat belt without a reminder.  The doors lock automatically.  Another child is civilized, another mother lies.  

*Susan Rukeyser
is half American, half Manx.  She wrote a novel, and it’s not half bad. 

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