Our Sister, Valentine’s Day

by Jerry Johnston

To understand the look of boredom our sister takes after grieving, press two oxidized
coins down into the surface of yogurt and then pull them back again to reveal the cool,
coppered remainders of eyes. That look is polite, and specific to the day my brother and I
arrived home after fishing a frozen creek in February. We’d found our sister, who then
was very young, sitting in a cowlick of monkey grass and crying because three girls had
pinned a black dog in the snow. The girls had packed smooth drifts of powder around the
dog’s hips until it resigned and sneezed in small, aerosol complaints. As the dog lay there,
the girls lobbed plastic flowers at it and their shrieks ripped reverse hallelujahs through
our crape myrtles. After a few minutes, the girls lost interest and followed a hopping
wren through a patch of grass. The dog shook itself free, pissed a steaming hole into
the snow and followed the girls at a distance down another street. A flood light beamed
stupidly into the yard, speaking to everything with one syllable until we arrived, sat in
silence and offered our sister the things we had: two pennies, a lure, a Chinese finger-trap
and a lullaby about a brick maker that kept her and the lions around her still.