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My Sister's Voice

By Mary Ellen Putnam

The room is so still, so quiet, that I can hear the katydids far away, through the open window. My pink and yellow blanket, with the satin trim, is smooth and tucked in all around me on my parent’s big bed. My favorite cuddly doll and my brown teddy bear lay beside me. My little sister sits on the small, cane seated rocking chair next to my bed. I call to her to climb up here beside me, but she does not answer. My mother and father sit on chairs brought in from the kitchen table. I call out again to my sister. She does not answer, but she speaks to our parents. Her words come out quickly strung together, sounds slightly off, and they do not understand all she is saying, but I do. I have always been the one to understand. No one hears me as I yell to them. My sister needs me. She needs me to be out of this bed, to run outside and play, to make mud pies, to play house, to decipher her speech, to get on the school bus, to share a cookie, to blow dandelions, to share secrets and laughter, to grow up, to grow old, to ride the train.

My sister and I love to ride the train. We pack our brown striped suitcases with books, pajamas, toys, and peanut butter sandwiches. We put on our coats, our mittens, and our hats, and go to the train station in the living room. The stuffed monkey takes our tickets and we board the couch, careful that we do not bump into the lion and zebra already on board. The train lurches forward and we are off. Looking out our windows we see huge ocean waves as we pass the seas, and dry land covered with cactus, as we fly by deserts. We go slowly through busy cities, under huge bridges, over high mountains, and down into long, winding valleys. Sometimes the train whizzes around the corners and we have to throw our arms around each other and hold on for dear life. Often the ride is long and we make up stories to pass the time. Then it grows darker, the whistle blows, and we know our destination is ahead. We close up our suitcases and get off the train. Our mother and father always meet us at the station.

I call out to my sister, to my parents, to remember the time we took the real train to New York City and what fun we all had, but no one seems to hear me.

My ears strain to hear all I can, but everyone seems to be whispering. I can barely hear the sound of rain beginning, bouncing off the tin roof.

My parents slowly get up and go toward my sister. They wrap their arms around her and come closer to me. Reaching out their hands my parents gently rub my cheek. My sister takes my bear and moves it so it touches my neck. With all my heart I reach out to them, willing that my unheard voice can penetrate the stifling shadows of the room.

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