I hadn’t known Clara long, but we were inseparable as soon as we were introduced. I could tell her anything and she accepted me for who I was — instead of politely tolerating me like the others.
My birthday party was modestly attended by my classmates. Either their parents forced them to come or they felt bad for me. I only cared that Clara was there and I ignored the other guests. They played amongst themselves as Clara and I drank tea, ate cake and laughed together. She told the best jokes.
She was in the middle of a really funny story when Daddy grabbed her and dragged her across the lawn. The other children cheered as Daddy slipped a noose on Clara and threw the other end of the rope over a tree branch. The noose tightened around her delicate neck as he pulled on the rope, lifting her and causing her legs to dangle in the air. I’ll never forget her writhing and reaching or the sound of her trying to choke out my name from her collapsing throat.
The whole party was a setup, some sick joke that everyone was playing on me. I ran to Daddy and tugged on his pant leg and begged him to stop. I begged him to let Clara go before she choked to death. I begged and begged but instead, Daddy grinned and yanked the rope, causing her body to bob in the air. He tousled my hair and handed me a baseball bat.
He wanted me to beat Clara while she was hanging and barely holding on to her life. He wanted me to beat her as her eyes bugged out and her face turned blue. He wanted me to beat her as the noose cut into the skin around her throat, causing it to peel and bruise.
Daddy put his strong hands on my arms and positioned me into a batter’s stance.
“Go on, honey. Don’t be afraid,” he whispered in my ear, “Give ‘er a whack.”
I stood frozen as the children around me started yelling, becoming more and more impatient. The world spun around and I dropped the bat. The other children became enraged until Daddy picked it up and smashed it into Clara’s dangling body. The fear in her eyes increased as he pummeled her again and again, leaving bruises and breaking her limbs, causing her bones to jut out of her skin.
The final blow split her open and her guts spilled out all over the lawn. My classmates squealed in delight as they rushed to grab her entrails. They shoved her innards into their greedy mouths and licked their lips — now red and sticky with her blood.
Daddy left her lifeless body hanging for the rest of the party. I begged him to call the doctor but he scoffed and said the doctor won’t help.
At the end of the day, Daddy threw Clara into the kitchen trashcan. Every time I snuck her into my room he took her away and put her back in the trash. For five days I stared at her rotting body while I ate my morning cereal and my microwave dinner. Then the garbage men came. They took her away, they took her away forever.
I hope you understand now. I simply can’t get rid of my newspapers, or my old magazines. I know I haven’t painted or sewn for years but I need to keep those art supplies and fabric. Just in case. And I can’t part with my glass bottle collection, some of them are very rare, you know. Original green glass. They might be worth something one day. I know the dining room table is far too big for the room, but it was such a good deal, and the chairs were my aunt’s.
My pets? No, I could never bear to part with any of them. Twenty-six cats and thirty or forty rabbits may seem like a lot, but I love each and every one of them. I can even name them all. Clarence, Tommy, Melanie — well she’s been missing for a few years. Maxwell… or is it Maxine? They’re happy here, very happy. Please don’t take them away from me. Please, don’t take anything. It’s all I have.