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Sept 14, 2022

when I am old, I shall wear chartreuse

Amy Barnes

However, when I’m sixteen, I dot Hershey's syrup behind my ears in case Roald Dahl visits and wants to feel at home. I imagine a man named Roald has a magic elevator in his house and fresh fruit trees in his foyer and likes smart girls that do science. I picture him with older man smoker’s teeth saloon-door-slapping as he offers me heavenly chocolate samples from Switzerland, not half-melted Halloween Hershey bars.

***

A man named Roald sleeps in a bed big enough for four comfortable people, but he sleeps alone, not with his brothers or grandparents who have nightmares about the sun burning our house down. When my family is frightened and can’t sleep, I make lemon chiffon pies and cream corn and serve them with goldenrod and dandelions in a vase to make everyone smile.

***

The only boy who likes smart me in my lemondrop seersucker dress is named Ronald Doll. He has a dog who speaks Pig Latin and a personal cow who pours chocolate milk every morning without being asked and a hot air balloon that spritzes the neighborhood (and him) with Axe Body Spray and a drum set made from Farrell’s Ice Cream buckets. Or so he says. I’ve never seen the balloon or the boy playing the drums.

***

I’m perpetually a smart girl with cheap chocolate on her mouth and an empty belly and empty pockets and an empty key that opens the door when I’m the mother to my brothers until one Saturday when I find a golden ticket, my ticket out of town, at the carnival on the just-out-of-town-edge. I think I’ve gotten lucky but my third shift mother points out it’s only yellow and not gold and the Dahl books are only fiction and who gives away an entire chocolate factory to a child anyway. I wear a corn silk dress to prom and Ronald folds and unfolds it all around us.

***

My skeptical mother sews the ticket into my coat so I don’t lose it. I carry that ticket in my pocket for years until the coat sleeves are too short and the pockets and the ticket and the coat are given away maybe to Ronnie’s repetitive sister Ronnie, short for Rowena. I imagine my siblings find it once I leave town to try and meet Dahl, but they aren’t smart enough to run a factory like where my daddy lives and works and eats liverwurst for lunch. 

***

I imagine when I’m gone my siblings suddenly like expensive chocolate and sneak into the real Roald Dahl’s house and chat with his canary who enters the chocolate mines first to keep the worker’s safe from chocolate gas leaks. I imagine they push a foil-wrapped chocolate anvil on someone’s head while laughing with a man who is not my fourth husband who smells of sweat and urine in our too-small bed; but is someone, a someone I never meet who brings women exotic saffron chocolates and who dresses like a wizard slash rockstar scented with chocolate and lemon.

Amy Cipolla Barnes is the author of three collections: AMBROTYPES (word west), “Mother Figures” ( ELJ, Editions) and CHILD CRAFT, forthcoming from Belle Point Press, She has words at The Citron Review, Spartan Lit, JMWW Journal, Janus Lit, Flash Frog, No Contact Mag, Leon Review, Complete Sentence, Gown Lawn, The Bureau Dispatch, Nurture Lit, X-R-A-Y Lit, SmokeLong Quarterly, McSweeney’s and many others sites. Her writing  has been nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize, Best Microfiction, included in Best Small Fictions 2022  and  long-listed for Wigleaf50 in 2021 and 2022. She’s a Fractured Lit Associate Editor, Gone Lawn co-editor, Ruby Lit assistant editor and reads for NFFD, CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, Retreat West, The MacGuffin, and Narratively.