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Beatrix M. Rooney

Heartbreaker

Illustration by Brittany Molineux

Beatrix M. Rooney | Longreads | August 2019 | 7 minutes (1,544 words)

Mom and I stand hunched over The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni. She holds a box cutter in her hand as she flips a few pages into the book. The poem on the page is “Poetry is a Trestle.” She starts to carve, but quickly stops.

“Lock the door,” she reminds me. I do, and she relaxes.

Her fingers press into the pages, turning white as she cuts through inches of book. The pages’ centers slowly disappear, in their place a deepening rectangle. I quickly gather the scraps, putting them in the trash. From this point on, I am to keep my money in this book — my brother Liam discovered the old water bottle I’d kept in my junk drawer.

I have a lot of secrets to remember when I’m home. 0000 is the combination of the lockbox where Mom hides over-the-counter medicines like Advil and melatonin. The box is in the very back of the kitchen cupboard where we keep the cat food. Mom keeps a wad of cash in her wardrobe, buried underneath her underwear and socks. I’m not to open the drawer when Liam is around.
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