national anthology of the best
undergraduate writing 2010

Stealing Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Cut It Out, Nikki Frankel

I have found the old family pictures and that paternity letter meemaw taught you to keep hidden in the writing desk in your mind. I was peeking through the drawers under the flip top when you were unclogging the sink. Perhaps if they are missing, it will be like a steam shower, and the memories will pour out of your sinuses and that way you can release the pressure and talk about it, and I can know what actually happened, and we can all just admit that I look like her.


I don’t care about the paternity letter. It makes me love you a little bit more.



While I was riffling through the flip top under your receding hairline. I found those dirty jokes, you old pervert. I’m glad I put them in my pocket at the last minute. Everyone laughed over dinner when I told them about the witch not being able to get pregnant because her husband had a halloweeny.



I removed the worn flannel shirts from the wire shelf in your mouth. I placed them in between my own stained and chipped incisors, yellowed from similar habits of cigarettes and pepsi. I speak and I spray showers of plaid cotton witticisms. They whisper amongst themselves of our likeness.



I have stolen the jar of super orange from the creases of your knuckles. I placed it in the left pocket of my tee, carrying it with me. Later I will uncap it and place it next to me while I watch myrna and william powell. I inhale the soapy mixture of artificial orange I layer under my nose like the vicks mom used to prescribe. When I return I will follow your fingerprints stamped in car grease that are painted all over the house.



I have written you a song from the clicking I collected from your knees. It sounds like CCR and I know I didn’t ask, but I hoped you wouldn’t miss the random popping too much. As soon as I get the melody right I will return it.



I lifted the little debbies that you store in your abdomen, where you used to keep muscle and pot. I put them in a box that I buried in the backyard. It sounds harsh because since you gave up smoking you love little debbies, but I had to do it. This way we have a secret that mom doesn’t know about and she can’t eat them all up. When I come home we will dig them up and devour them, washing them down with pepsi and laughing about who you used to be.



If you are looking for the retractable papermate pen you keep in the lockbox in your chest, I have it. I found the key behind your ear and I simply opened you up and took it from behind your ribs while you were napping in front of the tv. I placed it behind my own ribs. But only after first drawing a skinny mustache under the triangle nose you gave me. And yes, I know it looks French, and yes, I know without the French and their help in the American Revolution we would all still be speaking English.



I have hidden myself in five down on today’s crossword puzzle. I hate being away from home and I know you probably get lonely, and wonder where all that money goes, so I thought I would position myself in your daily routine. So lower your dollar tree glasses to the crooked bridge of your nose and answer Loch ____ Monster.