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Childhood


This is an imaginary story with real names in it.

Billy Most’s mother’s name was Myrna.

Myrna Most is a great name, and no one

was innocent, least of all Billy, whom we called


Toad. Maybe we’d have called him Mole

if we knew they were called moles. They speckled

his face and neck and made him look like a toad. In the end

I’m just a man looking to buy back his childhood


home. I press the doorbell gingerly. I come from

gum surgery. Gingivitis. Myrna is the realtor.

She walks me through the branching rooms, narrating.

I press the periodontal packing with my tongue,


and it resembles the flashing on the roof

in the angle where the roof meets the chimney

which is old and red and missing a few teeth.

The neighbor on the left was Mrs. Nad.


Toad called her Nag. I, too, disliked her.

But I was neutral in the turf war between

the sidewalk and the curb, where Nag had planted

sod, tying some string on sticks around it


to keep us kids off it as we walked

to school and home. Toad trampled it

on purpose, kicked it up maliciously, goose-

stepping, heels digging in: oops, oops, oops,


the crescent divots flying up like commas

punctuating the blank air. Suddenly Nag

comes hurtling down her front steps like

an exclamation point in an apron


and runs him through, and drags us both

by our ears over to my house (because Nag was a great

name and no one was innocent). But then she wavers,

as if wondering how to ring the bell with her hands full


of ears. Meanwhile Myrna is reciting certain details,

expunging certain others. I listen politely, tonguing

the wound in my head. And all of this feels like being

walked through my own body by a specialist,


a prostitute, say, with a very professional air

and expertise concerning this most intimate

part of me, where I haven’t set foot in years,

not since I moved away to a state with a name that


sounds like another country, Pennsylvania

or California. Incredibly, Nag begins

weeping, lets go of our ears, turns and walks

away. She seems to grow very old. She begins


picking up the divots one by one, like scalps

of her great, great grandparents murdered in their sleep

by Toad Indians. She piles them in her apron, kneels

on the sidewalk, fits them gingerly back into the earth.


This would be the perfect place to insert

an insight. Some lesson learned, some observation made

concerning friends and neighbors, life and death

and childhood. This would be the perfect place. Let us


pray. We kneel down beside her, to help her. Toad

returns to rake her leaves in the fall, shovels

her walk in winter. He buys a fleet of lawnmowers.

I move away to another country. Myrna Most


sells another house. The For Sale sign dangles

from the yellow stake in the mouth of my aching

front yard, a little cement in the hole. It’s early

April. I can’t believe what they’re asking.




Paul Hostovsky