Deja Vu Again

Autumn sat Indian style on the cracked and split steps in front of the school with her dark eyes closed. She had two ragdoll puppets in her pockets, an mp3 player in her jacket, People are Strange in her ears, and beside her sat a model of her house made and painted on the inside of a cardboard box. It had doors with pumpkin stickers and windows with curtains and drapes and singing wind chimes.
Everything in the replica was there in the home, in the real world: Autumn’s notebooks on her bed, made by white-out on tiny slits of black construction paper, small boxes colored like televisions with static on the screens, white paper with jagged sharpie marks, more notebooks and a pen, a pad, and a needle on the bed, bouquet of covered pages around the room, then the oval kitchen, the kitchen flowers, harmony in sound and feeling, the smell of fresh baked bread and wet summer grass.
It was all in there in the model, down to the broken sticks on the ground around the tree to the side of the home and the old tire that hung from it. Even the tree had their old time love letters and an old squirrel nest in the top of it, an old timer knife where once was carved Autumn loves Brandon in the bark with a tiny knife so many years ago.
There was a puppet of her father, messed up hair, eyes distant and cold, and a puppet of her mother, covered in jewels and make-ups, upstairs in the master bedroom in their bed under a thick flannel quilt that Grandma Margaret made.
Her mother laid on her left arm asleep, a bit of dried blood under her nose, a vacant listless ghost of a blank face to the wall The puppet of her mother had stitches in her ears untied. The puppet of her father had stitches in his mouth but unintelligible murmurs slipped out.
He sat on the edge of the opposite side of the bed with his head on his chin, his other hand holding tight to a pill bottle. Autumn guided the puppet and her father’s replica turned on the lamp and opened the drawer; a Bible in the bureau, a revolver in the drawer, pill bottles and crumpled boys in the floor around the metal basket in the corner of the room by the type writer with the stale and dusty cobwebs on it. She brought it out too, for her talent show, another prop she would need: someone to reproduce what she spoke for later chances to use it, wouldn’t want to waste one writing when it can be relevant in another place.
So many different tendrils of life attach to moments like invisible nodes strewn between invisible wires along a circuit board attempting to connect in one way or another.
It was all for Autumn’s talent show, the day she tried to wow, to earn the label prodigy some of the teachers at the old school called her, before she was placed in a higher grade with older children and became even more isolated and withdrawn. It was rare she talked to anyone in person, and, though she talked to a few people online, she always worried she may say something wrong.
She didn’t care about much at school, but she always entered the talent show, to prove she wasn’t just a brain that sat on her butt in the library all day, even though she was proud of being able to sit on her butt all day and read, and prove that art and beauty can be found in anything if you know how to put it together right. Beauty and its creation was a big concern for her.
She had been called a prodigy, a child genius, and all the other adjectives that alienate otherwise bright and cheerful children and alienate them until they’re a nervous burnt out wreck at twenty three shooting junk and drinking booze to calm the shakes of a mind that glowed so bright it dimmed, leaving a poor and whimpering animal in the skin of a little girl trying to validate the labels placed upon her, trying to balance her sanity and the pedestal they placed her on.
Three of the other brains, the Gifted and Talented kids, the types who read because they enjoy it, play chess and talk about physics and T.S. Eliot and what the smart kids talk about–the other smart people, understanding of genius, Autumn believed, was merely powerful perception; creation of genius is merely powerful and astute expression of the world as interpreted by the artist.
Autumn had always been a very serious child.
Three beta club members versus a slacker, verse Autumn and her shaking little hands, her quivering voice so soft and soothing, the nerd playing Tetris on her cell phone while the first two abominations to theater and god disgraced the scene and then she got ready, putting on an outfit with the shape of a nylon lotus crown around her neck and light blue in perfect contrast with her dress.
“The title of my three part performance is Déjà vu in three movements: No Signal in Aminor, No Exit in Bb, and No Refill in G. I composed this music to accompany the reading of my works.
No Signal, no exit, no refill. She took these titles terribly serious and the blinking line on her cell phone: NO SIGNAL. NO SIGNAL, seemed to fit so perfect.
“No signal try the call again did you dial a zero?
No signal. No signal.
I’ll try to move to some place else. I must hear your voice.
No exit. No exit.
I can’t find my love, but my pill bottle is near.
No refill. No refill.
She titled her play and the cell phone to the microphone and it said, “No Signal said the robot to the master obsolete when the old drunk old man took a kitchen pan and beat his robot to death, buried him in the yard. That old man Jesse, he’s a card. He tried to call to tell me the metal man is dead, but instead he looked and the moment took joy from in his mind: No Signal was the line, it’s dying robot voice.”
Autumn picked up the dollhouse replica of her home and carried it to the back of the stage. It was to perfect scale, the perfect color, as true to life as could be made. Autumn made a lot of interesting stuff, as her father called it, and had spent her entire summer putting it together and painting it. Her mother, while pregnant with Autumn, had a cocaine problem, “Cocaine! You got me on my knees, Cocaine!” was the song: an eight ball a day through the whole pregnancy and the baby girl was a little high strung with a delicate heart. Poor Autumn felt winter in her life by the time she was a teenager, the heart rate in her chest making the days seem as though they lasted a thousand years, hummingbirds wings fluttering at visible speeds to her in her tweaked anxiety fugue. She was high strung to the point it debilitated her entire body. She hated herself for giving her anxiety and even killed quite a few Barbie dolls with familiar clothes, but she had one outlet, one fountain to distill her misery and try to channel into beauty, like her father the failed poet did who loved her endless poems and letters to make believe men and women about make believe situations, her endless letters made her father smile. She never showed these works to anyone but her father and Brandon. She didn’t show many of them to Brandon, though, because she thought he was a better poet.
Her father was fascinated by it all, by everything Autumn did; when she bought a sewing grid and a bunch of balls of yawn and sewed a portrait of her daddy’s Norwegian cat, all the colors in perfect transition, a furry work of art with a needle.
Her little sewing and art projects were the only thing she had to say to the world, to say I love you like the stars and pretty skies, soliloquies and lullabies, and the play she played that long ago that day was recorded life and later somehow ended up online. It was called touching by one old man outside the building that day, and more than fifty people would talk to her about it, as it seemed to have validated herself in the eyes of the jury, as she called everyone outside of Brandon and her Father.
It was called pretentious and meandering by one reviewer, and was printed in Rolling Stone as Brandon’s journal, Déjà vu, and reader’s called it a refreshing American work of verse, especially for, ‘a girl that’s like, ten years old.’ Some people called it boring and bland visual poetry with too heavy a reliance on symbolism. Autumn when she read the review did not know what symbolism was.
Autumn thought it would be humiliating – but no one laughed and no one heckled or got up to leave. A little old woman, Autumn’s aunt Dorothy, sat at a piano on the stage with the sheet music to Autumn’s play before her.
Autumn played the piano when she was young at her father’s insistence. “A woman with the skill to make something beautiful with her soul will be seen as beautiful by all.”
“‘C’est la Vie,’ the poet said. God help me please, said Autumn. God, help me.”
Autumn walked out slow and nervous through the sultry red curtains. She had taken two Xanax and believed she would soon calm. She wore a little blue dress with long white gloves a ribbon of white lace in her dark hair. She wore black boots because her father dared her to.
“My name is Autumn,” she said into the microphone. “My name is Autumn Rose and this is my life. This is life in just two minutes.”
She set up the replica, put the two model cars out front, put up the mailbox, put two letters in it.
She attached the tiny mic to her dress, began to hum in a waltzy tone in allegro. She repeated la la la la la la la to each cascading A minor scale a low pitch, “The eye sees the itself within song.”
The auditorium was quiet as Autumn hummed over the trills of a melancholy melody that echoed off the white bricks of stone and in between the seats of wood, a sublime melody of layers and delicacy.
Autumn took the puppet from her pocket, dressed as a perfect twin, a frown on her face a downcast glance. She took the other hopeful looking doll, the antonym to her likeness, the bright eyed blonde hair dolled was skinnier and prettier and had an upward glance half open mouth full smile.
The more realistic one and Autumn’s likeness had dark eyelids the color black like eye-shadow stained instead by insomnia a purple blackish smear of restlessness, was perfect in appearance, dark rimmed eyelashes behind wrinkled old looking eyes, pink along the yellowed inner rims, hair disheveled pushed to the side of her face, hazel eyes hidden by a black hoodie.
She put on the strings and hooked the fishing wire to the handles on her puppets and then the fake grips on her left hand.
She hooked parts of the house to her pinky fingers, with two other handles operating doors and angels and mirrors within the house.
She dropped the puppets from her hands, caught them as if they stood on air and bent her hands forward and they bowed.
Autumn said, “The por una cabeza, please. Let them hear some good music before we play my crap!”
Autumn’s friends and she looked for Brandon’s laugh in the crowd and saw his sly little smirk, the wit! he thought, so proud of his little friend. Brandon, he was sitting in the front row with a sprite bottle full of liquid morphine. He had a lot of issues with his dad and publisher but had written several novels and had been called by some people coming of age in this very generation a talented writer and artist in the background of life; his desire was Autumn’s too, to bow before one appreciated crowd before she snuffed it.
Autumn got the same treatment at the school every Christly child on Vincent’s side and Kyle’s side, Brandon was Kyle’s son and he was three years older than Vincent’s daughter Autumn, but Kyle and Vincent were best friends.
Vincent was a conflicting figure; he could do anything he wanted at school, which was read, drink that sweet sweet cough syrup, and write poems and stories for his friends.
Autumn’s daddy was a published writer too, but not too successful. Brandon had published a successful book of poems at a young age and decided that he would write a bunch of novels in what he called his ‘pointless attempt to know everything. That’s my goal,’ he says. ‘To know everything. If I did, I’d write a book about it, entitle it, ‘Everything,’ and every one would call me a liar if they didn’t ignore the publication all together. If I sold as many books as I’ve bought for my friends, I’d have enough money to buy a hardback copy of Anna Karenina…’
The first four bars of the Por una Cabeza played out of the old piano like a bird inside the wood walls dancing on piano wire.
In the road in front of the tiny house, the two puppets embraced, to the first beat of the por una cabeya, that beautiful Italian waltz. They took each other one by the waist, hands held in the air, their faces sideways so close their faces pressed together… They walked to the beat of the music in dramatic steps in perfect rhythm on the air. Autumn humned aloud to the melody of the absent violin melody stored in her memory low into the microphone clipped on the lace of her dress with a little scary safety needle; she saw it and thought of her father at home and sadly hummed the words, enunciating the notes of the missing violin in key, “dah da dah da dah da-dahhh.”
The smiling puppet by way of Autumn’s thumb put her face on the other sad girl’s shoulder. Autumn flipped a switch and the puppet flashed a smile. The music lapses at the sound of a gun shot. The smiling girl disappears. An audio screaming file is played over and over.
A streetlight flickers on and then explodes with the glass bouncing like tiny ice against the ground the smiling puppets face, dissolving into a slow frown starting at the eyes and falling like a man under a tree as the sun throws his shadow across the path in front, the path to right, who knows? Not Autumn, I, not Autumn me. When the streetlight flicked on again, the smiling puppet had a knife between her legs and blood on her hands. ‘ She stumbled, fell to the ground, the puppets leg opened on both sides with both sides cut, ketchup running from the holes staining the pink of her panties and the walkway outside.
She ran into the puppet house with a line of blood following her. The miniature camera that hung just behind her on a mounted screen careened through the catacombs of connected rooms and artifacts, tiny painting, her dying grandma’s dolls.
Autumn’s fingers made the likeness of herself walk through the door. The puppet had tiny trembling hands as she crossed the threshold looking back and forth holding her shoulders shivering. She takes a left, turns into a living room with a pitiful fire, a young girl in long john’s watching television, on which flashes an image of dragon in a pink sky with a purple sun, Barney pajamas and pig tails, sweet little girls echo in the audio track the laughter fading into that high pitched frequency hissing noise, swan song of the stillborn frequency. She walked into the other room, leaned against the old bunk bed as it once was in the past, when she thought she would be sleeping with a baby brother. Instead there was a bunk bed with the top covers tucked into the mattress to create a shroud around the bed, like Jasmine’s bed in Aladdin, and she slept in the pure dark with her glow worm, a blanket with planets and the horse head nebula up to her neck, a soft smile on her chin with two teeth missing.
The kitchen table is covered in a bowl of hot wings, a smiling girl holding a wing with hot sauce on her nose and cheeks and then the puppet stops in the hallway. Autumn’s left hand came into the play, mimicking the frowning dolls movements with her ambidextrous hands and sighs into the little microphone. One puppet frowned, sound of a sad yawn, yet the other one smiled. One screamed. One covered her ear as the piano melody rose to a crescendo. The puppet ran up stairs, to her room, a girl not breathing on her back a thousand covered pages and empty pill bottles on which was written NO REFILLS in her hand a tranquil smile and languid grin across her sanguine face as though in a golden dreamworld far away from pain in the lap of beauty and bliss and grace, for a moment a twisted rotting tree cast an angel shape and before the puppet fell a cross. The puppet’s eyebrows raise at the sight of an angel appearing on the hill, turns around and runs, yelling, Autumn screaming into the might, “Leave me alone! Leave me alone! Please, leave me alone!”
The puppet runs to the parent’s room and Autumn screams to the figures of her parents through the proxy people attached to her fingers.
Her mother doesn’t move, Autumn scerams,
“Mother! Mother!”
Her mother rolled over she had a laughing look on her face amused.
Her father looked at her for a moment.
He turned around, popped a pill, daddy had his medicine and daddy was fine.
Autumn thought, maybe I should take mine. She pops three of the pills and finds her father again.
“Daddy?” Autumn said. Her dad lays down, his legs stop shaking.
“Daddy!” she repeated. “Daddy! I love you!”
“No signal. No response. Inability to establish a carrier wave to broadcast empathy. Nobody home…”
“Daddy! Daddy!” the puppet Autumn shook the lifeless doll a moment and slapped the soft plastic in the face.
She ran down the tiny stairs into the living room again. She picks up the phone, dials a number—a telephone rings on the Celestion speakers in the auditorium.
Autumn’s breathed intense with panic in her voice, “Somebody…Everybody…Anybody. Please, she cried. God please. God please. Answer the phone. Answer the phone.”
She fell to her knees with tears in her eyes.
“We’re sorry,” the Operator said. The number you have called is disconnected or out of order” played over the loud speaker. “If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.”
Autumn dropped the microscopic phone with the puppet’s plastic hand, went to the attic put the childhood toys away, her pound puppy stuffed animal, her Franklin computer with Oregon trail, the golden Zelda cartridge… She put the puppets held by the puppets in a box like their own, locked them away, took the grips off her fingers and packed the toos of the trade and locked them in a box just like the one inside.
She put a cellphone to her ear. The piano shifted to a B minor refrain and slowed the volume getting lower until inaudible. Blackness fell on the stage and obscured all but Autumn in the light.
“I have to call my dad,” she said. “It’s part of the performance. He wanted me to write a poem for him, to show him how I feel, and I think that true talent is found in your ability to love someone through your words before they even read them, to show them truth and beauty and when there is nothing let the record be true. A poem written with feeling is not always the best way to describe someone’s mind. Sometimes people without feelings write poems. But… anyway, the important thing is I wrote this for my father to show him that beauty is in everything that is true. And I’ll read it to you all. True talent is expressing your empathy and love, though everything that is true is not beauty, everything beautiful is true.”
She stopped and smiled.
“I might as well read it for you guys here instead,” Autumn said, not seeing her father in the audience every where she looked so she closed her eyes.
She took out her cell phone and dialed a number, the crowd with her impatient to wait. She said.
“No answer, but I’ll read this poem for him, so even though he’s not hear, he’ll feel somehow what I say. I think true talent is in expressing yourself entirely and truthfully, and everything that is true is not beauty, but everything beautiful is true. He wanted me to write a poem for him, but I decided to read it for you all, since I’m sure my dad will watch the video later, when Bonanza goes off! I’ll read it for you, if you promise me you’ll laugh.”
Her few friends clapped. She smiled at them. She looked at Brandon and he mouthed in silence, “You’re the shit, girl. I love you.”
“I wrote this poem for my father,” she said again uneasy to read nervous. “He likes cheerful poetry and when I first got the idea for this poem, the title, I was watching him strap a belt around his arm.
There’s a little whole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, a puppet said, coming out of the closet with nappy grey hair. Another puppet, her stillborn brother, danced on the ceiling in her empty bedroom while she read in monotone to the crowd:
“A short detour one would suggest the road the sorrowful know best
“It’s always raining there, and grey;
endless lifeless pale grey days
of rain the sidewalks slow and plain
no sun there is to shine,
the body shape
that’s penciled on the sidewalk with their face,
where endless are those pointless days,
live all time’s slaves in great malaise.
their porcelain painting frowning face waits on the sun.
“One minus one and we’re all done,
the figures fall like figs and plums, on desolation Drive.
“All of those alone in pain call it that unfriendly name that Desolation Drive.
There long gone drones blow out their minds
Queens live alone in broken hives.
Abandoned houses empty lots
Cracking sidewalks needles shot,
a place the word called hope forgot.
“Yawn the houses, knobless doors,
hallways noiseless no feet on floors,
the crumpled royal roaches eat.
Empty plates and vials around,
an empty fridge, no food inside,
turned yellow like the Queen’s bee hive—
“Though there she mourns alone.”
Sad faces on a black board
and the yearning of a lonely cello song,
vague handprints in the dust to fade.
“Crayons, paintings, postcards,
those yesterdays we needed went away.
Forgotten in the lifelong maze,
the happiness now gone away,
forgotten in the grave of stagnant cigarette haze.
“Silent empty corridors identical catacomb rooms.
Dirty towels on the floor
used jeans fraying used no more
a dropper in one pocket,
love letter in the other,
all of that with a burnt up spoon,
they fit so well together.
“Clotted blood in droppers
turn into rose shapes in the grey,
maybe that’s what caused my name,
daddy’s heroin that day.
There’s a little whole in daddy’s arm
where all the money goes and when he goes
we always know he ends up so distraught and on the floor,
in tears and screaming,
“Please oh God let mebe dreaming!”
on the floor in tears to talk about
how he could have been somebody and he is.
“Hope is down. The chips are low.
Looking for an exit but no sign seems to glow
There’s no where left to go.
No signal, no way to call,
“No Refills,” it says it all.
Empty bottles, no medicine now–
the Letter is unread;
in empty clothes where once was froze
another of the dead.
Spent and yellow cigarette butts
human stumps fall in the tray.
Broken clocks and broken robots,
the ones who love and break a lot,
they sing those sad old lines:
“Wrong place, wrong time,”
their lonely little nursery rhyme.
There is no fix for them.
“There is no fix for those who lie
alone and look up at the sky
numb and dumb the day is done
and for them there is no why-
just how:
to get the fix that they need now
their only little fix to be–
A normal person, to love, to hold,
like they do on other roads,
by desolation drive.
“Where happy people live and smile
their dreams fulfilled the Miracle Mile.
“Another day, the same old song,
chocolate wrappers on the lawn,
burnt up spoons and bodies gone.
Coffee cups long drained have cast
a stagnant halo on the glass.
Another day to waste away
puppets for the monkey play
Their tragedies and pass.
“When Hope is gone.
The Chips are thrown,
across dirty tables slow.
They load the gun,
the barrel, spun,
gunshot silhouette shadow show.
No song, no mass,
no life, no past,
one lullaby they go.”
Muffled clapping by her group of friends and her English teacher. Mrs. Cody was her best friend at the school. She stayed after school a lot to talk to her about books.
“For dad who said he could not make it,” she said, “No signal, no call. And now, I’d like to play a song with my grandmother, Mozart, the one four hands. Don’t know the name but I know the song.” And beautifully she played on.
“Thank you,” she said and left taking her house and puppets backstage and tucked it away with her other clothes. She changed into a Cossack, put on a brown belt, a bald wig, and took a skull from her trunk of props. She walked back onto the stage.
“And now,” she said, that big stretched toothy smile with her rows of tiny white teeth, “I’d like to do homage my favorite Shakespearian soliloquy. You’ll know the one.
She coughed, pushed all the items off the table, slammed her hand against the bass notes on the piano and said in a loud, forceful resignation, as though a distant speaker to a tapped fountain of words in perfect fluctuation and rhythmic structure:
‘To believe or not to believe, that doth underlay the world of man and action, and the man now idle is subtracted from the sum of human being, another subtracted from the cause, what cause to be is there when free is not the cool day air so stole away by night and is to me the question right? Or more right than before, to suffer the sadness of the mind and look out through the grey cage we call I, from inside the barred cage of the mind, than it is to walk the path to find the song of peace to dance to, with yourself content or with one you love, or is it more noble to sharpen our minds with the pains and lines of lies and tragedies writ for us to act out poorly not knowing why or how or if it’s a dreamboat to begin with; if it’s a dreamboat, then contact Noah; tell him we need two of everything: to preclude to me the question if is the hideous face of a scrutinizing world under a microscope naked men play in the mind to remove the anomalies abnormalities and treat it all with something, is there more honor in the misery of life than the fleeting bliss of the moment when action is taken to right the ship asunder tossed by troubles by and by with lilting waves of chance and reason world propelled this narrow shell once formed from a tree; is it a sleep, perhaps a dream, a twilight glowing shadow ring, stereo halo sun undone by the Mandelbrot that eats infinity for breakfast as will us all go down it’s hungry hole called time. Before then are we to take a sword against our trouble make the joy in life our own? Or should refrain and hide from rain watching the world go by slow out the window in which small pools of light fall in to see ourselves and glowing skin in a circle that brought us to our feet this world to greet, this life to live and life to lose led to graves by old blind fools facing bitter face to face the tragedies of every day and instead of turn to kiss they turn their face away; their face and that alone should end, should end their sway and if you pray the kiss on Death’s cold cheek won’t make you fall before you write your goodbyes on the wall and get some rest and end it, dream: no more ticket, no puppet strings; the waste land our flesh is heir to, the wick of fire long burnt away began the day first our eyes went wide and looked above and saw a dove and felt the love inside. They say such verse is folly, of that I have no doubts. It’s just as much a foolish folly to think what’s life about: when you wake you rise and take a good look at the sky, have some friends, watch good things end, wither like the elm tree die and there go back; where once you slept between the crack of this world and the others by it to find them all must die in quiet in acceptance of the end of the road. When one wakes up remember the dream as a living impulse idea thing inside the mind and living too reminding me of Déjà vu.
“For in that final sleep nothing will come. No angels Heaven bells or drums, no fluttering soul without a body rising to the clouds singing the rapture with eternal lungs loud as into the sky they rise until finally their eyes look above Earth’s tired skies and gives them pause and that respect the Earth our tomb and derelict for us to wither scorns of time and make this madness torrent rhyme that another might intake the projections and the variables the other machines that think will quietus make. The oppressor in the head that Mara temptress sent always speaks when your wits and strength is spent and show you easy ways. Pains of the despised love and symptom of a love’s delay, what insolence of office, of title and what spurns—the patience merit though unworthy takes and again a quietus make and with what would you take your own, a sweating grunting toil alone under the sun till days are done at death exhaled your breath to fall from the shelf where once you sat and gazed upon it all. That undiscovered country has yet to be found, no signal, no exit, no refills, no sound. And none have yet returned; maybe there they lose their care and love for Earth is spurned.”
A small smattering of clapping filled the auditorium. “Thank you,” Autumn said. “That was my homage to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in the old Bard’s classic. I could not do the source justice with my tribute, but I did not want to copy by rote; to be like Shakespeare, one must first cultivate one’s own voice and use it to the best of their ability, not follow the styling of successful poets of the past. You academic types do this too much! And don’t get me started on Haiku…”
Autumn walked across the table with a candle, sat the candle on the table in the center of the stage. She poured water from a glass labeled Vodka (it was cleared by the PTA because her aunt was on the Jay Cees and the Jay Cees controlled the school and social functions down in Whitmire, South Carolina.
Many of the students knew not what she was paying homage to, and some of the clever kids thought she just didn’t know the lines.
She did, however, know all the lines from Hamlet’s soliloquy with perfect recall, but felt shame in reading them verbatim, thinking it would be foolish to read Shakespeare in a voice and inflection that did not come natural to her. Thus she preferred to render it in her own poetic tongue, as she said, to retain the ‘spirit and understand the era of the performance and what prior epochs have seen.; She spoke on with an old man’s drawl, lisping with a sweating forehead and mispronouncing words and slurring speech in a drunken swagger shouted: “Is it right, if there is right at all, to suffer the agony’s of the prison mind or, better yet, take arm against the sea’s of opposition, and by facing them, by kissing the cheek of thy tormentor to say it ends, to die, perhaps to sleep and maybe dream. Aye, that’s the trouble, the trouble that makes malady of so long a life. Out brief candles, out!
Autumn blew the candles out and the curtain fell to the sound of applause. She opened her eyes. Her mother was shaking her.
“They’re going to do an ultrasound now,” her mother said. “Just go back to sleep.”

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