The Mon Chi Chi by Jeanette Powers

 

Aunt Sonja died of diabetes
and having watched another aunt later
go this same way, I don’t think anyone
really gave their best effort to stop her
or maybe everyone hates themselves
or knows they couldn’t do any better
or maybe just no one knows
how to tell someone I don’t want you to die
so we let them eat taffy and pineapple upside down cake
and look away at the endless pitchers of sweet tea
or another case of the cheapest beer
because we’re all so poor anyway
what’s one pleasure today?

Easy for me to say.

So Sonja has two adopted sons, Chip and Dale
absolutely no fooling, but this is still a story
about a stuffed monkey, a Mon Chi Chi
me and her saw on TV and little we had
but I told her I really wanted one, anyway
and for whatever reason she gumptions up
gears up the grumbling Ford Pinto
and heads to Indian Springs Mall
in Wyandotte County, Kansas
and in the two of we go.

The first thing we see is Helzberg Diamonds
I’ve never seen so much glittering light
it’s the whole star field a crazy planetarium
caught in a sea of taupe carpet and beige walls
and queerly above, my first ever chandelier
Sonja hands me down a bright red button
and pins it on my shirt, she tells me it says:

I am loved.

I’m not even five years old
but it’s easy to remember what it felt like
it felt like my first big announcement
I am loved and it was Sonja who loved me
and she scooped me up and wandered me
through the rest of the mall, my first mall
on the way to Children’s Palace
the Holy Grail of a 1980’s kid’s life.

I remember her carrying me way more
than I remember picking the little monkey
out from all the other identical stuffed monkeys
but I’m sure I was glowing and I know
I was just over the moon in love with her
and looking back, the money she spent
was probably meant for insulin.

We all live with what we owe.

Sonja and I went to Orange Julius
after getting my hot new toy of the season
and I set my brown paper bag under the bench
where we drank the frozen juice, powdered sugar
powdered egg, vanilla milk perfection of a treat
and I was loved and winking at people passing by
and everyone was laughing and kind and happy
so we walked away with a gasp of joy in our hearts
that wasn’t all that common in a family sick with silence.

I still have that useless monkey
and I still wonder what happened to Chip and Dale
after Sonja died, and wonder why not one
of the family has ever tried to find them
and I watch my cousin Sheri at the candy
and she is so sweet I can’t even say
I don’t want you to die.

They say diamonds are forever
but that’s a fucking lie.

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