One of the things I love about writing in an AWA workshop is the freedom. Oh, sometimes I’m so involved in whatever long-term project I’m working on that any prompt leads me back to it, but pretty often I’m surprised by a little piece that seems to come from nowhere. So, I write it, read it, save it, and, often forget it. Months, even years later, I come across it again. Then it’s a second surprise, because often I barely remember writing it, if at all. Here’s an example.

Whole Girls

I’m watching them in the blow-up pool, these three little girls, these three whole little girls. Oh, they pose and preen already, mirroring what they see too much of around them. But they are still whole bodies. One is dark and compact, butt and tummy round under her rousing pink one-piece. The blonde—there’s always a blonde, isn’t there?—is wearing pink, too. Hers is a bikini, the minute triangles tied over her thin chest with green straps. The third girl has dark hair, too, but paler skin.

They sit in the water, surrounded by pink and green and yellow plastic toys and cups and implements of play, busy negotiating around a game I can’t quite hear. They reach, stretch, splash, flop, kick, all with an unselfconscious grace they won’t keep much longer. They’re nearly three.

How long before they become a collection of usable and desirable parts? Of breasts and mouths and vaginas? Parts for giving pleasure (and perhaps receiving it), for nurturing. How long before they no longer stand relaxed, tall, straight, but begin to slump and shrink, yielding to gravity, to hunger, to desire. Or shrinking from them all.

Will they grow up to be women who know where they are in space? Girls whose bodies sometimes move to run, to catch, to throw? I want to keep them all in this backyard, destroy the televisions, the newspapers. Give them books and music, and balls and rackets. Help them find the center, and the outer edge, their location.

But already they’re playing an engagement game. They’re talking about bride dresses, and fiancés, and rings. They’re taking turns being the bride, the groom, the preacher. But they stand so simply, until it’s time for the crowning kiss, and then they wrap themselves together in their own version of soap-opera passion, before they collapse back into the pool, lost in a cascade of water and giggles.

Today, they’re still whole.