Normal/Once I Was Young and Obedient

Green Hills Literary Lantern





Van’s singing “Brown Eyed Girl” and I’m remembering

sweet Mike with the strawberry blonde hair. He was my first

kiss, my first St. Christopher to wear. We were fifteen that summer

with nothing to do and no one watching us. Then his mother left

when his sister got sick. His dad moved them home to Iowa.


I saw him again at a funeral. He’d enlisted, married a girl

named Mandi, had a baby on the way. He wanted to come back

from Viet Nam and teach junior high, have a normal family.

“You know,” he said, “shoot hoops after dinner, mow the lawn

on Saturday, Sunday football.” I’ve heard nothing since.


I could search the internet, but I prefer thinking of him

pushing a lawnmower on a Saturday afternoon, Mandi inside

a yellow kitchen filling two glasses with lemonade. She carries

them to the screen door, opens the latch with her elbow, backs out

and catches the handle with a finger so it doesn’t bang shut


and wake the baby. She sets the drinks on the porch step.

Mike stops the mower, walks over to join her. They sit in the sun

and quiet. The heat dries the damp circles under the glasses.

A dog barks. A plane drones through a blue untroubled sky.

And the smell of just-cut grass fills the afternoon.




Once I Was Young and Obedient


He stood at the nurse’s station,

face wet with tears, glasses smudged,

skin so thin I could follow the map

of blue veins flowering across his temples.

“She’s gone,” he said, “she’s gone,”


stuck in a two-word loop.

He clutched a clear plastic bag

filled with his wife’s things. I could see

slippers, magazines, the pink sleeve of a robe.

“No,” he said, “there’s no one to call.”


She’d been our patient for two months,

but when I said I wanted to drive him home,

the charge nurse ordered me back to work.

I watched him shuffle down the hall,

shoulders slumped, the bag bumping his leg every step.



Victoria Melekian’s work appears in Bryant Literary Review, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Serving House Journal, Word Riot, and other anthologies. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She has twice won a San Diego Book award.