Sandy let me sit on the couch without taking my shoes off first. I told her Pop wouldn’t let me do that, ever, but she told me Pop didn’t have to know. I sat down real slow and tensed my legs all up so my feet were just as close as they could be to the cushions, only not touching them. I didn’t think she would catch me, but she catched me and told me to put my feet down on the cushions. I did it, but she looked away and I picked them back up real quick, only I kept them closer to the cushions this time. Sometimes they accidentally touched the cushions for a second, but that’s okay.
Sandy asked me how was school and I told her school was okay. She asked me how was my teacher and I told her she was okay, too. She asked me how was my math test but I didn’t tell her that was okay because it wasn’t okay. I forgot my addition for seven plus eight, but I didn’t want to tell Sandy that. I thought it was sixteen, but it should have been fifteen. She said how was your math test again and my legs were tired from holding my feet off the couch so I put them down. Sandy’s face scrunched and she said what was wrong with your math test. She knowed I was lying before. I told her I forgot my addition for seven plus eight and she said that was okay. She said I should probably tell Pop, but I didn’t think so.
Sandy asked me if I like to look at TV and I told her sometimes at my grandma’s. She said why only at your grandma’s and I told her because Pop likes to have TV to himself when he comes home from work, with beers. Sandy wrote a thing on her paper. She does that lots after I say something she likes. She said what is your favorite TV show and I told her Cops. Sandy made a noise and a face and I told her what’s wrong and she said nothing what do you like about Cops. I told her when the cops took away the bad people. She said does anyone on Cops remind me of anyone I know and I told her no, I don’t think anyone I know is on Cops.
Sandy said it’s hot today and taked her jacket off her. She asked me was I cold. I shaked my head. She asked me how come I didn’t ever take my sweatshirt off. I told her Pop told me I could catch a cold if I taked it off. Sandy liked that. She asked me do you take your sweatshirt off at your house and I said I do. Sandy asked me do I like my sweatshirt and I told her yes I do. She said why do you like it and I said I like it because it has blue on it and yellow, too. She said who was the little man in the red and white hat and I said that was Handy Manny. She said what did I like about Manny but she got his name wrong it’s Handy Manny. She said what did I like about Handy Manny and I said I like that he has a bunch of friends he hangs out with all the time. She said okay and that we didn’t have to talk about my sweatshirt anymore.
Sandy asked me why do I never talk about my friends from school. I didn’t want to tell her so I looked at a picture over on Sandy’s desk. She told me pay attention, please, and even though I heard her I looked more at the picture. There was a boy and a girl and a dog and a mommy and a daddy. All of them had on sweaters and reindeer antlers, even the dog. Sandy asked me did I like the picture. I didn’t think she sawed me looking at it, but she sawed. I looked at Sandy again and put my head down. She asked me again did I like the picture. I said yes I did. She said the boy was her son and the girl was her daughter and the man was her husband and the woman was her. I asked her was it her dog too and she laughed a little and said yes it was her dog, too. Sandy said he was part of the family and asked me did I ever have a dog. I told her no. She asked me did I ever ask Pop if I could have a dog. I shaked my head. She asked me why not. I told her Pop said a dog was a pain in the butt, only he didn’t say butt. But I didn’t tell Sandy the word Pop said for real instead of butt. Sandy asked me did I want to draw my own picture. I told her sure.
Sandy asked me did I like crayons better or markers. I told her crayons. She asked me why not markers. I told her I liked markers before but I drawed on the wall with them once and Pop called me a pain in the butt like the dog I couldn’t have. Sandy wrote that on her paper and got me some crayons from her desk. She put me down on the floor by the kids’ table and handed me some papers. She asked me did I need anything else and I shaked my head. She asked me was I too hot in my sweatshirt and I told her no. She made a little face again and pressed some buttons on a little white box on the wall.
Sandy let me draw for a long time. I used a blue crayon to draw me and a red crayon to draw Pop. I’m a good drawer so I drawed myself with my sweatshirt and my pants and my shoes, and I drew Pop in his shirt and his jeans with the holes in them and his work boots. Pop had tools in his one hand and beers in his other one hand. I had tools in my one hand too, but mine had faces on them like Handy Manny’s friends. Pop had a frowny mouth on his face like he does when he comes home from work. I had a smiley face because I like when Pop gets home some days so that’s the day I drawed. On top I drawed some clouds with a light blue and a angel coming out of them with a yellow dress and wings and a yellow halo on her head.
Sandy came up behind me and looked down at the picture over my head. She told me very nice picture and I told her thanks. She sat down next to me and asked me who was that in the picture so I told her the red guy was Pop and I was the blue one. She asked me why did Pop have a frowny mouth on his face and I told her because he frowns lots when he comes home from work. She asked me what was that in Pop’s hand and I told her it was a hammer, She asked me what else and I said wrench. She pointed at Pop’s beers and said I don’t recognize what kind of tool is this one. I told her don’t be silly Sandy beers aren’t tools. Sandy said sorry she didn’t know and I said that’s okay. She wrote down in her book that beers aren’t tools, probably so she’d remember that later.
Sandy pointed at the clouds and the angel in the top and asked me who was that and why was she in the sky. I told her that was a angel and she asked me did I like angels. I told her that I didn’t care about most angels but that one was Mommy so I liked her to be there. I told her that Pop said Mommy was gone but Grandma said she was there always watching from a big happy place in the clouds. I told Grandma clouds weren’t happy ‘cause they made thunder and lightning but she told me these were different kinds of clouds with no thunder and no lightning. Sandy smiled at me and put her hand on my shoulder and I didn’t expect that so I jumped a little but she said it was okay so I calmed down after that.
Sandy asked me what was I wearing in the picture I drawed and I told her my sweatshirt, of course. She told me I thought you said you didn’t wear your sweatshirt at home and I told her well sometimes I did. She asked me would I like to draw another picture with no sweatshirt on this time. I told her Pop didn’t like my pictures when I forgot to draw my sweatshirt but Sandy told me Pop wouldn’t have to see this picture. I asked her wasn’t that lying and she said no it wasn’t, not really. She said to draw the picture like nobody would see it but me and Sandy. I asked her to pinky promise and she told me pinky promise. She went back to her desk and gave me a new paper.
I drawed the picture again only this time I did what Sandy asked and drawed me without my sweatshirt. In a few minutes she asked me was I done and I told her yes I was but I didn’t want to show her the picture I made. She told me please and I said no I don’t think Pop would like it. She asked me did I remember our pinky promise and I said no. Sandy walked over to me to take the picture but I put it back behind me. She told me please let me have it but I didn’t want to so I ran to the couch and put the picture under my butt and sat on it so she couldn’t have it. Sandy asked me did I know a pinky promise goes two ways and I knowed she was right but I didn’t want to say. She asked me again please can I have the picture and I told her yes she could. I took the paper out from under my butt, and it was all wrinkly like Grandma’s face.
Sandy said let’s take a look and I gived it to her. She looked at my picture real close and made a face. She pointed to my arms because she could see them now without my sweatshirt on them. Not in real life, in the picture. I still had my sweatshirt on me in Sandy’s office. Sandy asked me what are those purple circles on your arms. I was scared she was going to ask me that. I scooted away from Sandy and sat back on the couch with my hands under me. I told her Pop says I’m not supposed to talk about the purple circles. She told me it was okay, I didn’t have to tell her.
Sandy must have really liked the picture because she folded it up and put it in her book. She wrote a lot of things down in there. More than she did before. She looked back up at me from the book and asked me was I warm now and did I want to take my sweatshirt off yet. I shook my head and put my hands further underneath me. Sandy asked me would it be okay with Pop if I took my sweatshirt off, just this once. I told her no I don’t think so. Sandy got real quiet for a second. She told me if I wouldn’t take my sweatshirt off would I at least roll up the sleeves. I shook my head to that, too. She told me rolling my sleeves up wasn’t the same as taking off my sweatshirt. She asked me did Pop ever say anything about rolling up sleeves. He never said anything about that, so I thought maybe rolling up sleeves would be okay. Sandy asked me how about it and I said okay.
I asked Sandy would she close her eyes until I rolled them up and not open them until I said so. She said yes that would be fine. I told Sandy okay close them now and don’t open them until I say. Sandy closed her eyes up tight and I wiggled my hands out from under me. I pulled up my sleeve on my left arm and then my one on my right arm. Grandma taught me that my left fingers make a L so I knowed which arm was left. I looked at my purple circles and put my finger on one of my new ones. It hurt a little bit, but Pop told me that hurt was okay sometimes when there was a reason.
I told Sandy now you can open your eyes.
Sandy opened her eyes. She made a sound like a yawn and I told her was she tired. She put her hand on her mouth again, like before a yawn, but she didn’t tell me was she tired. I asked her again was she tired and she said no she wasn’t, but I think she was. I don’t think Sandy liked my purple circles. She didn’t write down any things like when she likes what I say. I told her what’s wrong, Sandy, but she didn’t tell me.
Sandy asked me what were those and I said they were my circles. She asked me were they bruises and I told her don’t be silly again. I told her you gotted bruises from falling down and told her how one time I falled off my bike and had a bruise. She asked me where do my bruises come from and I said I told you they aren’t bruises. She asked me well then what are they and I told her love marks. Sandy liked that. I was scared she didn’t like me anymore since she didn’t writed down what I said for a long time, but I think she did.
Sandy asked me why did I call them love marks and I told her that’s what Pop says they are. She liked that, too. She asked me why did Pop call them love marks and I told her because he gives me them so I don’t forget that he is the only one who loved me now that Mommy was gone. Sandy made a new face. I asked Sandy didn’t anybody ever give her any love marks and she shaked her head. I told her was she sad and she said yes she was. I asked her was it because she didn’t have her own circles and she said no she wasn’t sad about that.
Sandy asked me did Grandma know about my marks and I told her no she didn’t until a week ago. She asked me how did your grandma find out about them. I told her grandma and me were watching Cops like we always do and I sawed a lady on the TV with ones like mine. I told Sandy I told Grandma look those circles are like the ones Pop gaved me and Grandma made a noise like Sandy makes when I say a good thing. Sandy asked me what did Grandma do next and I told her Grandma went away and called a person.
Sandy asked me what happened after and I told her a man came from Cops and talked to Grandma and me for a long time. Sandy asked me what did the man do and I said he taked Grandma and me with him to the TV station and asked me lots of questions. I told her the last time I sawed Pop was before.
Sandy asked me did I understand what was going on and I told her no I didn’t. I asked her when will I see Pop again and she told me she didn’t know. I asked Sandy could I please see him because some of my circles already went away and Pop needed to give me new ones. Sandy told me no she didn’t think so and I asked her why not.
Sandy told me no more questions for today.
Andrew Tucker lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he received his MFA in fiction and screenwriting from San Jose State University. He has served as the Managing Editor of Reed Magazine, and his recent work has been awarded the James D. Phelan award for short fiction and the Lois King Thore Short Story Scholarship.