The operator must have wondered
why the little girl hadn’t called that day.
Ordinarily, by 8 O’clock, the child had dialed “0,”
but this morning was different.
Just this once, the mother had invited her along.
The operator probably thought the gabby-girl
was sick or even dead. But the child
wasn’t sick, and she wasn’t even dead.
She was more alive this day
than she had ever been.
Today the mother had noticed her.
The girl watched as the woman tightened
her naked lips around the tube of bright
lipstick, flattening it on either side.
She didn’t cry when the mother pulled
her neglected hair into a ponytail.
Her eyes might have watered,
but she did not cry. She was then
ushered into the front seat, where
her sisters usually rode.
The mysterious destination soon
became apparent as the flashing DONUTS
sign appeared in the car’s headlights.
Pleasant aromas overwhelmed her as the little
girl sat down directly across from the mother,
who ordered coffee (with two sugars)
and a large donut overflowing with red jelly.
The child’s mouth watered as the glazed donut
was placed on the table in front of her. It wasn’t
her favorite, but the little girl didn’t complain.
She was happy. The woman didn’t speak, but
the child grinned at her anyway. She was content
just watching the mother as she left outlines of
her painted lips on cigarettes and coffee cups.
This was a special day, a peculiar day,
a day the girl would commemorate forever.
She would wrap this memory in silk and
file it away in an extraordinary place labeled,
“The Day the Mother Acknowledged
the Little Girl and Brushed Her Hair and
Fed Her a Donut.” Or perhaps merely,
”The Day the Operator Missed Her Call.”