“I can show you how to kidnap your mother,” Rosalie said. We were sitting on the fence in my backyard, Rosalie’s hands round the rope swing, ready to push off.
“What?” I asked. Rosalie always had crazy ideas. She once made a pumpkin chocolate cake with butter brickle frosting that still made me want to vomit.
But she pushed off, swinging low, close to the dirt and then up and out and over the ivy filled gulch under the massive walnut tree. She was gone, and then she whooshed back, her dress hitched up over her round white thighs. Her small hands clenched tight, but she was smiling.
“I kidnapped mine once,” she said, panting a little as she handed me the rope.
“You don’t even know how to drive.” The rope was thick but worn. Sometimes when I swung out over the darkness, I imagined the part that rubbed the tree limb would snap, and I would fall and break into a million pieces.
“You don’t need a car to kidnap someone, stupid.”
I pushed off, the rush of air against my face, my legs and hands clenching the knots in the rope as I sailed up, close enough to touch the tree limbs, leaves against my face, and then back down, the fence wobbling under my feet.
“So how then?” I held onto the rope, needing to hear this. My mother was hard and cold and made me clean my room every night. Worse, she never said anything I wanted to know.
Rosalie looked at the rope and then at me. “You lock her in the bathroom. You’ve got those old doors. The kind you can lock from the outside. Leave her in there for the whole day. It’s not like she’ll pee on herself.”
At that, she grabbed the rope and took off, not stopping after one, two swings, but gaining momentum, the tree and rope creaking as she went back and forth, the force of her blowing back my hair.
I could do it. I could kidnap my mother in our house for a whole day. I could eat whatever I wanted and stay outside all day with Rosalie and wander the neighborhood. My mother could sit on the toilet or take a bath or read the magazines stashed on the toilet lid. Maybe I could put a box of Saltines in there for her. A cup of coffee. Or the bottle she thought I didn’t know about in the cabinet by the oven. That bottle.
Finally, Rosalie stopped swinging, sitting beside me and then throwing the rope out into the middle.
I wanted to yell at her. Now we would have to lasso it and yank it back for the next round. But I didn’t have it in me. Already, I couldn’t hear the yells my mother wouldn’t yell. I could see her in the bathroom that would probably be a relief, a hiding spot that she didn’t choose, that she was forced into. My father would never find out because she wouldn’t tell him. I wouldn’t either. And I’d never do it. She and I would live like this all summer and forever until I could kidnap myself and move away.
“Get the rope,” I told Rosalie.
Jessica Barksdale’s fifteenth novel, The Play’s the Thing, and second poetry collection, Grim Honey, are both forthcoming in April 2021. Recently retired, she taught at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California for thirty-two years and continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.