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It's likely then that the tipped milk box pitched its rider onto the dirt by the back door, embedding a piece of gravel in her right knee, leaving a pale blue O-shaped spot that, along with two accommodating moles, would form what she would ever after think of as that knee's stricken face. It's likely as well that the mother, wearing her plastic tablecloth poncho, walked through the living room with its one dramatic dark green wall to the telephone. Just as likely is that the aunt stayed where she was, setting down the bowl of dye and whatever she was applying it with, which is why while the mother was picking up the phone and saying hello and then listening to what the caller had to say, the aunt was peeling off the gloves and stepping out onto the back stoop to pick up the kid who had fallen onto a sharp rock and was wailing. It's likely the aunt was confused for a long moment that afternoon, about why when she got the soggy child with the bloody knee calmed down, she still heard crying.

Or did she? Maybe on those hot summer afternoons, when coffee made women languid, when the scent of trellis roses mixed with the scent of ammonia, when girls pretended they were mothers while mother pretended something else entirely, perhaps anything could happen.

But then again, it's maybe possible, perhaps likely, that it never did.

Jo Ann Beard is the author of The Boys of My Youth, a collection of autobiographical essays, and other works of fiction and nonfiction. She has received fellowships in nonfiction writing from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

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