Do you remember toothbrushes lined up on a rack
in the medicine cabinet, at the mirror’s back?
Your father’s brush was ocean blue, your mother’s brush was green,
your sister’s brush the reddest red that you had ever seen,
whereas your brush’s handle had no color at all—
as though it was the ugliest sister at the ball.
How you yearned for color, reaching for your brush
as the first summer’s meadowlark called to break the hush
of the early morning while you were sneaking out
to be the first one out-of-doors to see what was about.
Making that fast decision, your hand fell on the red,
thinking your sister wouldn’t know, for she was still abed.
You put toothpaste upon it, wet it at the tap
and ran the brush over each tooth as well as every gap.
Each toothbrush flavor was different, your older sis had said,
so you thought it would be different brushing your teeth with red.
Your father’s brush was blueberry, your mother’s brush was mint.
Your sister’s luscious cherry—its flavor heaven-sent.
“But because you are adopted,” your sister had the gall
to tell you, “they gave you the brush with no flavor at all.”
You waited to taste cherries, but that taste never came.
That red brush tasted like toothpaste. It tasted just the same
as every other morning when you brushed with yours.
You heard your sister stir upstairs, the squeaking of the floors.
You toweled off her toothbrush and hung it in the rack
and started to run out the door. Then something brought you back.
You opened up the mirror and grabbed her brush again.
A big smile spread across your face—a retaliatory grin.
The dread cod liver oil stood on the tallest shelf.
You were barely big enough to reach it for yourself.
You dipped her toothbrush in it, then quickly blew it dry.
Replaced it, shut the cabinet, and when you chanced to spy
your own reflection in the glass, each of you winked an eye.
Then you ran out to cherry trees to catch the first sunbeam
and brush your teeth with cherries while you listened for her scream.
Yes, we really did have a cherry orchard behind our house. You can see the trees peeking up behind the wild rose bushes directly behind the trellis in the picture above. This is my older sister Patti and I. Yes, she really did tell me I was adopted. (I wasn’t.) No, I never did smear her toothbrush with cod liver oil. The retaliation part is just a mental one, sixty-some years too late, I’m afraid. She has since redeemed herself.
The prompt today is toothbrush.