Laura McLaughlin
Her harlequin stockings hang limp on the back of the old oak chair.  Her eyes change colors as she turns toward the stained-glass window above the staircase that spirals down.  The song is blowing out of imaginary speakers like a circus, the tension of a tightrope and a shred of hope hanging it all in the balance.  She lifts a long leg to her mouth and sucks on her toe like a thumb; she finds the color of the toenail polish tasteless.  Her eyes tune in around her at the many-roomed attic she would play in as a child.  To the north one doorway, the east a second, the west a third, the south a fourth, and before her those slippery spilling stairs.  Each wide door held a playground then, the rooms enormous and piled with every kind of trinket and toy:  brown glass bottles, musty volumes of poetry, tarnished silver spoons, needle and thread, a stole with a fox's small face still attached.  She would run her fingers over everything, crawl into the crevices underneath the windows, peer up into the slanting ceiling and watch the moths waltz in the patches of light.  Solid behind her, keyhole in the center, the carved chest she would reach under, to feel for the big black cat with the heterochromatic eyes.  With outstretched claws it had kissed her slender arm, and left its love bite below a birthmark near her elbow.  Double-jointed, she can twist it to her whim so that you cannot even see the scar.