A Family, in Triptych
Ashley Murray


She is moonfaced, blue-silvered hands -- is what he noticed the first time he had her.
The second -- a pock scar, red bullet above the hip bone.
He had pointed.
Chicken pox, she said. Mother made me take an oatmeal bath.
He had turned up the radio, kissed her again. She tasted like cherry limeade and the tater tots they'd just eaten. He twisted to avoid the steering wheel.
At school they all laugh at her harelip.
He thinks he is kind not to tell her this as he hides her in his car after practice, as he braces himself on her shoulders, unshowered.


Sweet Jesus this road don't stop.
The windshield is an orange blanket. The wipers disappear in the dust.
Through the only clean piece of glass he sees the reflection of the pearled head, too large.
He guesses he should be used to it by now. The screaming.
His wife is asleep. She is unaffected in the seat beside him, goddamn her. The eyelids flap open and shut. Her belly rises neatly.
In the backseat the squashed toes. The cry is a howl, is metal.
The asphalt is no longer black. The yellow dotted lines have turned colors.
Sweet Jesus. This road.
He's driven it backwards and forwards.
And even in the storm, he knows what comes between -- seventy-five more miles and the farm house with the crooked green shutters.


More were out than usual that summer slithering from the fields by the side of the road, stretched sideways on the asphalt while the two of them sat in the car for awhile with the engine running. They held hands. He chewed tobacco.
And then she tried to be quiet as she crawled on the hood of the car gripping a garden hoe in her palms. He walked with no noise, something he picked up from his daddy, and pointed to a rattler that had coiled itself into a crown.
Her knees ached over the Chevy's blue tin as she wrapped her pale fingers around the wood and brought down the blade. The snake bent in two separate pieces. Its tongue continued to flick. The eyes and fangs jumped and snapped.
It's true the body dies before the head, so he crushed it with his shovel and winked at her before he threw it in the burlap sack.
It had been a bright spell. He moved out at the end of August.