My sister picks up her daughters at the bus stop
ever since a nine-year-old girl from the neighborhood
was coaxed into a car by a man
telling her he'd hit a kitten down the road.
His story went that the small ball of fur
ran somewhere near the railroad tracks
and he needed an extra pair of eyes to find it.
The girl was smart and had been taught
everything grownups thought she'd have to know
about even the worst of strangers, but she wanted
to be a veterinarian when she grew up.
And the man looked as though he'd been crying.
He had that child in the car four hours,
my mother tells me, my mother who would cut off his balls
if she had the chance. She sounds ugly, fed up, middle class,
when she says it, and I want to say no,
but I too share her sentiment. My father
thinks the rapist deserves worse, to be shot dead-
no questions asked. My brother-in-law has a gun,
and my sister knows he'd use it if anyone tried to touch
their daughters, my nieces, my parents' grandchildren.
Four hours is longer than some double features,
longer than some continental plane rides,
longer than a whole afternoon in grade school.
Nothing is slower than time when you're nine years old,
nothing is more fragile than trust.
The rapist dropped the girl off at the pizza parlor
where the men who worked there called an ambulance.
Before this, my nieces walked the short distance home
and they protest, wanting to know why they can't anymore.
The after-school rapist hasn't been caught,
but the second and fifth grade rumors aren't terrifying enough.
My sister wonders how to tell her daughters,
who love small animals and only want to help.
- Denise Duhamel