One day, for preschool show and tell, Lily and Jenna brought in their previous lives. Lily wore an old-timey newsboy cap and brought one of those black and white clappers. She pointed to a picture of a scowling old man: “Me before I had heart failure.”
Jenna brought in pictures of a burned house: black wood charred, a porcelain toilet in the rubble. The kids at the preschool thought Lily and Jenna were hilarious. The kids stumbled over the word reincarnation: at parent-pick-up they divulged Lily and Jenna had been recarinated, like old Hondas. The girls got extra snacks at lunch and a joint first turn on the tire swing. They claimed their stomachaches came from spinning.
The kids asked if the old man Lily used to be also liked swinging. She said yes, of course, I made moving pictures, after all.
“You’re a doll,” Lily said when she got first dibs on the swing. The kids didn’t see that Lily was using the words she knew to express the mystery she felt. They didn’t see Jenna leave the playground and move to the teacher’s bench, ice packs draped over her forearms.
The kids didn’t take the previous lives seriously, didn’t know that Lily woke up in the middle of the night screaming: Paramount won’t return my calls!, or that at bath time Jenna would claim she had red burns on her skin and refuse to be touched. The classmates thought it was like having an imaginary friend. They didn’t understand the difference between an extra friend and an extra life—one builds you up, one breaks you apart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Allison Pinkerton received her MFA from the University of Central Florida. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Review Review, Necessary Fiction, Fiction Southeast, and the Ploughshares blog, among others.
THE ARTIST: Eric Clausen