The Savages in the Suburbs


Sjohnna Bruce McCray

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 122 in March, 2010.

The Savages in the Suburbs
                    —In 1978, Cincinnati experienced 
                    one of the worst blizzards in Ohio history.

Afterschool, mom asks, “What you learn today?” Meaning, “What new word did you learn today?” She pushes a sheet of paper across the table and slaps down a pen beside it. This is not a casual inquiry: what I learn, she learns, and I take my time with each letter.

* * *

Like anticipating signals from space, we wait for the words Taylor Elementary: Closed to scroll across the bottom of the screen—but it never happens. It’s dark and my mother sighs; dad’s at work. She curses in a mixture of Korean and English and stomps off to find pink moonboots. Zipping me up to the chin and wrapping my scarf like seaweed, she motions for me to jump on, piggyback style.

The street is lined with odd submarines, cars afloat in snow. It’s like the time I fiddled with the hole in my stuffed Rin Tin Tin, The World’s Most Famous Dog, and his innards fell out all fluffy and white. Each car is frosted with 7-inch layers on top. My mom, in the live action version of Frogger, navigates the long, white dashes. Side to side and down the middle, not much chance of getting run over. Yards away, curtains part and Adam’s mom looks out in shock. Adam waves, but Mrs. Zeigler cinches her bathrobe tight. Blinds are cracked and shades snap up as the neighbors follow us like klieg lights. It’s 1978 for God’s sake, and we continue to impress like savages.