Failure by Susan Tepper

Last week I turn eighteen and my Da tells me, "Go sign on the dole."

"I won't, " I tell him.

"Daughter you will, " my Da says."You will or I get the priest and he brings a nun, one of the meanest in the convent to box your ears."

The next day I go in by bus. The worst day of my life. It marks me with an ink that won't wash off. Failure I read on my forehead whenever I look in the glass to brush out my braids.

Today the roof is smoking. Why is it nobody else is home nearly every time the chimney sets the roof afire? I have to climb the ladder and beat out smoking thatch.

Patrick sees me up there and comes to help.

"Why are you crying Maureen?" he wants to know."You've stomped this roof a hundred times, you could win a citation."

He's stomping thatch, too.

Between us we manage to put it out pretty quick.

"I should let this damn house burn to the ground."

"Why'd you want to do that Maureen?"

"My Da is a mean old bastard. He made me sign on the dole."

"You could go to America like your cousin, " says Patrick.

"Siobhan? She had a family sponsor her. She lives with them in New Jersey. A very nice house I'm told."

"You could get a family to sponsor you, " he says."You're pretty enough."

Susan Tepper

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