Kali-Ma (On Working for a Sexual Assault Hotline in the Appalachian Foothills)

Woman says: “Walked in on my boyfriend. He was with my four year-old daughter. He was touching her all kinds of places. Called the police, and they can’t find him, but I know where he is. I’m gonna kill him.”

She says: “I know what they’ll put her through. First they’ll give her this exam and stick objects she doesn’t understand in places she no longer loves to collect DNA on swabs they’ll likely lose. Then too much time will pass before they put her on a stand and hand her a doll and ask her to show the court what happened. They’ll say, ‘Did he use his thing? His private parts?’ And she’ll be scared and confused, and she’ll start to hate dolls, and the defense will call her an ‘unreliable witness’ and that’s when they’ll call me up.”

“I won’t need no doll. I’ll tell them what I saw. Don’t think every word I say will be sweet on their ears. And they’ll say, ‘Oh, you was angry at the defendant, wasn’t you? He was gonna break up with you. He never loved you. That made you angry, didn’t it?’ I’ll say I don’t know about all of that, all I know is he smelled like dead man the minute he sunk his dick into my daughter. He smelled like gun powder, just like my hands do now.”

“And they’ll say, ‘Is that a threat?’ and they’ll pack that man in a bullet proof vest and position one cop to the left and another to the right so I don’t do what needs doing – and we both know what needs doing.”

I’m nodding at the phone like I’m seen when she says: “Am I wrong for thinking this?”

Shuttered black eyes blink skulls to my feet, then I respond: “No. Where is your daughter? Is she safe?”

She says: “She’s settin’ in my lap. I told her she’s going to Nana’s for a spell. Jus a lil while. Jus a spell. She doesn’t want me to go, but I’m fixin’ to have myself an accident, if you know what I mean.”

I do. People have accidents all the time. Hell, just recently in Athens County a certain pedophile ate the wrong batch of brownies. He just so happened to die.

She coughs fire from her throat and asks: “What would you do?”

And I answer long-tongued: “I’d hide the body.”

She laughs, and so do I, both wondering if I’m serious. So I add with the rolling hill accent: “I don’t rightly know.”

In my daydream her head fills my lap, and comfort crafts saccharine speeches: There are children who don’t remember. Who wash it cleaner in their minds. Transform the memory into a less-fulfilling game of doctor. Some people become scientists, anyway. End up okay anyway. Some people do, anyway.

Instead something spools out about trusting the system and the wonders of counseling. It’s my job to talk this way.  I congratulate her for electing not to continue to share a bed with unfortunate company, for not considering her four year-old a hussy, like some might. Some might.

She snorts: “I don’t know about those women. I know about this one. I’m her mother. The night is long. I’m not even tired. And I know where he is.”

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