First Lesson (Mother Tongue Series)

by Amanda Deo

My mother spoke to me when I was a child about strangers. Not to talk to them. Not to touch them. To keep my naughty bits inside my tights.  To keep holding her hand.  To stay within her reach.  I used to see kids at the mall with those extendable "kid leashes".  Like the ones made for chihuahuas.  Like the ones made to squash a good story, you know, like the one where the kid runs away in Sears and hides beneath a clothes rack and mum goes crazy and calls the police.  A story like that.

Thirty years later dad takes out cellophane peppermints from his pocket and extends his palm to me. My lips purse and begin to blubber. I almost kick him in the junk.  I scream.  I run home.