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October 2018, vol 14 no 3

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Doris Lynch

Risking Everything

I’m playing Risk with three teens. I’m only eleven and my sister, Rosemary, and her friends, Carla and Latisha, instruct me each afternoon about political alliances, geography, and the amazing power of tears. They want me to play to prevent a rout, an uneven two against one. After a couple of days, I decide what they really want is a stooge, someone to gang up on, a permanent early loser.

cicada shells
fall to the grass

With each throw of the dice, they make deals with each other – I won’t attack Chile if you leave Australia alone. Stand clear of Nepal, and Canada will remain quiet and safe. What about me, I ask, why destroy my Peru and Greenland? As Carla’s armies line up in Alaska and face off against Rosemary’s Kamchatka, Rosie starts sobbing. Not the fake tears we employ to halt one of our dad’s lectures, but real salty ones.

“My god, Rosemary,” I protest, “Get a grip! You’re a sophomore in high school. In four months you’ll get your learner’s permit.” No matter, Rosemary blubbers on, and Carla, tapping the Risk board with her long blood-red nails reconsiders her army’s aggression. Instead, she plunks a passel of armies on Peru’s border. On Latisha’s turn when a battle again seems immanent, Carla begins her own waterworks.

Guess who makes no deals, sheds no tears? Who loses each August afternoon? Who quietly slips into the woods after the other girls ram their colorful armies onto my barely-fortified countries? What’s to dislike about the company of sycamores and maples? The summer-stilled Stony Creek?

from the milkweed border
a pheasant explodes
the deep silence after