Bedtime at eleven

Grace Williams  •  Vassar, Michigan

Here is how it is done:
Walk into room. Avoid the yellow carpet stain. If your left foot lands on it, retreat and begin again.

Flip the light on. Flip it off. Three times.
Walk again. If you step on the yellow, repeat until right. Don’t think a bad thought. A bad thought means you do not pass go or collect two-hundred dollars. You go to jail, and you can’t get out. Unless you do more time.
Your father is an asshole, an absolute prick!
He ruined everything, and he will pay!
Peel comforter back. Then do the sheet. If you grab them at once, smooth in place and begin again. Your fold must make a triangle. Preferably a right triangle. Better make it a right triangle. Just in case. Then get in.
Say that you love me more than your father.
This is Carl. Call him dad now.
Turn the lamp on. Turn it off. Three times. Not too quickly. Equally spaced.
I’m calling the Friend of the Court.
Tell Dr. Thompson what we talked about.
Turn your alarm on. 5:45. Check that it’s am. Not pm. Check three times. Don’t get distracted.
Are you sure that’s what happened?
Here show me with dolls.
Close your eyes. Don’t open, not even once. Match your heartbeat to your breath. Only breathe on threes. Only.
I’ll bring your mother back in.
Please don’t.
Kiss Grizzly. On the nose, not the cheek. If you miss the nose and kiss the cheek, repeat mistake two more times and then kiss again. Hold him. He smells of tears.
Fold your hands. Begin the prayer. Don’t mess up. Thank God. Thank Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
If you have a bad thought, start over. Never question Them. Repeat until perfect. Three amens. Don’t mess up. If you do, you will have to get up and start over. All over. Any you will have to draw boxes. In the morning. Before school.
You try. You do. Always. Always. Always.
Bedtime is broken glass, and you’re barefoot and always bleeding.