The raccoon’s fur left a pattern in dried blood when Sylvia peeled him off the asphalt. She held him by the front paw. He was stiff. “Mommy loved your bandit face.” Sylvia named him Brady. She knew that whichever neighbor had hit Brady would never tell and would go on living like everything was normal.
Sylvia put her doll in the bed where Mommy’s head should be and tucked Brady under the pink coverlet in her doll cradle. She sprinkled Brady with Shalimar and promised God to never tell anyone if he let Brady come back alive. She would love him and feed him and give him garbage cans to play with.
“And if you can’t do that, God, please make Mrs. McGowan go away, not get hit by a car, just go away and send Brady to heaven to be with mommy. I can take care of myself.” Sylvia pulled all the roses off her mother’s bush and laid them over Brady.
In the morning, Sylvia woke holding her doll. Scattered toys ringed the empty space where Brady’s doll cradle belonged. She heard the scrape of a shovel.
Her mom’s rosebush lay sideways on the grass, muddy roots like fingers reaching toward her father as he dug. Daddy had tears. He said he’d thought she was too little for funerals. Together, Daddy and Sylvia lowered Brady into the hole, planted the rosebush on top, and twisted their fingers up with each other’s while Sylvia sang Brady up to heaven.
Mrs. McGowan would come again, but Sylvia hugged her father and thanked God that Mommy wasn’t alone anymore.