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Michelle Valois
Principles of Microeconomics

I’m playing poker with V and her sister and it’s a weekday morning in a dark-paneled, smoky apartment, and I’m supposed to be in class, or I am supposed to be writing a paper, and there’s V’s sister’s 16-month old baby boy, fat and docile, too quiet, as if hollering never did him any good. V looks at her hand, tells me she wants to write a story called Hope Street, which is where we are, which is where she grew up, in a hard-knuckled town, harder than mine. V says she wants to write a story about leaving Hope Street, but because she never truly leaves, or leaves and comes back, she doesn’t write the story.

Her sister’s husband left, just like her Dad left and her Mom, though she waited until the kids were grown and only moved to the trailer park on the other side of town, where she lived until a freak storm flooded every tin-roofed home that was parked too close to the big river.

V shuffles the cards and deals a new hand, telling me to write the story called Hope Street and (she whispers while her sister is out of the room) one about how her sister thought she’d take a class at the community college, before the son; how she wanted to be a nurse, so she signed up for a biology class. Now the boy, who’s too big to be fed on his mother’s lap, sits high up on the biology textbook, a few phone books, and the bible. V informs me that this is a symbol of her sister’s life on Hope Street. Fuck you. V’s sister sits down and picks up her cards, tells her sister to go to hell. Then she looks up at me and winks, and I don’t know if she is flirting with me or letting me know how good her cards are or maybe how bad.

The boy chews on the nipple of an empty bottle, and I lose twenty dollars that day snow covered every street and no traffic moved, and a 16-month old baby boy sat too quiet, too still, in a dark-paneled, smoky apartment.