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Crater Face

by
 is what we called her.
The story was that her father had thrown Drano at her which was probably true, given the way she slouched through fifth grade, afraid of the world, recess especially.
She had acne scars before she had acne—poxs and dips and bright red patches.
I don't remember any report in the papers.
I don't remember my father telling me her father had gone to jail.
I never looked close to see the particulars of Crater Face's scars.
She was a blur, a cartoon melting.
Then, when she healed—her face, a million pebbles set in cement.
Even Comet Boy, who got his name by being so abrasive, who made fun of everyone, didn't make fun of her.
She walked over the bridge with the one other white girl who lived in her neighborhood.
Smoke curled like Slinkies from the factory stacks above them.
I liked to imagine that Crater Face went straight home, like I did, to watch Shirley Temple on channel 56.
I liked to imagine that she slipped into the screen, bumping Shirley with her hip so that child actress slid out of frame, into the tubes and wires that made the TV sputter when I turned it on.
Sometimes when I watched, I'd see Crater Face tap-dancing with tall black men whose eyes looked shiny, like the whites of hard-boiled eggs.
I'd try to imagine that her block was full of friendly folk, with a lighthouse or goats running in the street.
It was my way of praying, my way of un-imagining the Drano pellets that must have smacked against her like a round of mini-bullets, her whole face as vulnerable as a tongue wrapped in sizzling pizza cheese.
How she'd come home with homework, the weight of her books bending her into a wilting plant.
How her father called her slut, bitch, big baby, slob.
The hospital where she was forced to say it was an accident.
Her face palpable as something glowing in a Petri dish.
The bandages over her eyes.
In black and white, with all that make-up, Crater Face almost looked pretty sure her MGM father was coming back soon from the war, seeing whole zoos in her thin orphanage soup.
She looked happiest when she was filmed from the back, sprinting into the future, fading into tiny gray dots on UHF.

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