Late March and he's shoveling snow off the sidewalk in front of his brownstone apartment. A small black cotton hat barely covers his ears and the jacket is from he's not sure when he got it but it's a bit too small and not warm. There was a snowstorm four days back that was supposed to be bad and tough but ended up being mostly freezing rain and the sun today helps melt the snow that did fall.
His daughter has been having bad days at school but he's not sure how to cheer her up. She's at a stage in her life and it's tough on him. He wanted to have a child to straighten his life out and strengthen him and his wife. They were dating when she got pregnant and then Lenny was born and for him the world changed but for her not much really did. A nurse told her that she'd become much smarter once she had the child and parts of her brain that were dormant her whole life would awaken and illuminate. She didn't feel that way and although she does love Lenny, she also resents her daughter in ways she doesn't totally understand. She resents not changing dramatically once she had the child and even though she did change a bit she doesn't feel the unconditional love that her mother told her she’d feel and that erodes something very real within her everyday she looks down at her daughter and doesn't see pure white light and hope.
Lenny strolls home from school and feels especially down. She stops at the flagpole and looks up.
You coming? asks June.
Not right now, says Lenny and her friend trots away.
Lenny takes out her favorite tiny doll from her backpack and starts digging a small hole in the moist dirt surrounding the flagpole. When the hole is of a certain size, Lenny drops the doll in and buries it.
Why'd you do that? Lenny asks out loud to herself, wiping bits of sludgy dirt from her hands. I don't know. I guess it's because lately.
When Lenny gets home she asks her mother whether or not she should have buried the doll under the flag and her mother is confused and isn't sure what she means so Lenny goes to her room and gets under the covers and tries not to think about what buried is and thinks that if we are all not buried all the time we may have a better way to understand what it means to be free.
He comes in the apartment after finishing shoveling and asks his wife what's wrong but she just looks down at her hands and then back at the computer and nods. He doesn't get it and it's making him question whether the time he's been spending worrying about his daughter should’ve been used to wonder whether or not there's something going on with his wife.
Tell me what's wrong, he says.
Did you hear about what he's going to do to our benefits?
Yes, I'm taking care of it. These things take time and nothing is certain yet. Is that what's bothering you?
This is the same shit you were saying about how he wouldn't get elected.
We've got to stay positive.
Fools are the ones who dance in the rain.
What are you talking about?
They're the ones who get soaked from dancing all day long in the rain. Fools.
Later on, she says she isn't hungry for dinner so he sits down with his daughter to try to mend at least something that's troubling her and says, you know that I love you very much, don't you, Lenny?
Yes, Dad, she says. What's wrong with Mom?
Well. Well, I'm not sure.
I'm just not sure what's the matter with Mom but you don't have to worry, Lenny. Mom is just fine.
I'm not fine, she says.
Why not, Mom?
Ask your father.
Why isn't Mom good, Dad?
Why do you have to talk to her like that? Can't you keep certain things to yourself?
Keep what, Dad?
The cat jumps off the kitchen table and makes its way over to him. He picks her up.
How are you doing, little one?
Stop talking to the fucking cat, she says.
I thought you weren't supposed to say things like that, Mom.
Say things like what you spoiled little bitch? Go to your room.
He plops the cat down and goes over to her. He grabs her arm and tries to bring her up to him but she won't stand.
I'm not moving. You can do whatever the hell you want.
Why did you say that to her?
What the hell is the difference?
Why did Mom say that, Dad?
The cat goes over to Lenny and burrows into her lap. She starts petting it and the cat purrs.
Let's go, honey. Let's go for a walk, he says.
Little bitch, she says.
He walks outside with Lenny. A cab sloshes by and avoids a biker. Lenny is bundled up well. He has his small hat on and the coat that's not warm. The two walk holding hands on the sidewalk towards her school.
Why was Mom saying those things? she asks.
I don't know, Lenny. There are some things in the world that I don't know and that's a good thing to learn early. It's a good thing for you to know.
They walk over to the flagpole that's outside the school. Across the yard there are shadows from the jungle gym and the swings and the sun is setting.
I buried my doll here before. Right here.
I took my doll and buried her here. Right here under the flag.
Why'd you do that, Lenny? Why did you bury your doll?
I don't know.
He crouches and starts moving the dirt around with his hands.
No. Right here, she says, and helps him dig up the dirt and the two of them take the dirt away and she starts to see the doll and grabs its arm and pulls it out of the ground. She brushes it off and the doll is a bit dirty but she starts straightening out the doll's dress and gets the dirt out of its little hair.
Why did you bury this here, Lenny? Why did you want to do something like that?
I don't know, says Lenny as she takes a step back and looks up at the flag.
What do you think made you want to do that, Lenny? he asks looking down at her but she keeps staring up at the flag.
He looks up. They both stare.
Molly Serenduke is a writer and activist. She completed a playwriting fellowship at The Juilliard School. Molly's work has been presented by PBS, Open City and others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her wife, Laura, and her dog, Jade.