I still have twelve spiral notebooks of dated daily letters, all beginning with "Dear Princess." Peter made Xs for the kisses and Os for the hugs.
He wrote ITOYOALYA on each, an abbreviation for "I think of you often and love you always." I have seven videotapes, each dated, with titles such as Margaux on Roller Skates, Margaux with Paws, Margaux Sitting on the Back of the Motorcycle, Waving.
Peter would watch these every day toward the end of his life: Margaux scuffling in the dirt with Paws, Margaux playing Criminal on the couch, Margaux waving from atop a tree, Margaux blowing a kiss. Nobody watches Margaux now. Even Margaux herself is bored at the sight of Margaux in headbands, Margaux in cutoff jean shorts, Margaux with drenched hair, Margaux by the ailanthus tree where the white hammock used to hang.
I was Peter's religion. No one else would find the twenty photo albums of me alone, or with Paws, or with Karen, or with my mother, engrossing. The wooden box made in eighth-grade shop class contains loose pictures, and they are equally uninteresting. The two locks of hair, braided together, brown and gray, laminated so they would always last. An album of autumn leaves, the names of the trees that they came from listed underneath: sugar maple, blackjack oak, sweetgum. My glittery fairy wand, my tiny gray felt mice Peter threw out in a fight but later dug through the trash to retrieve, the cast-iron skeleton key we found by the boat docks; my silver bangles and huge fauxgold cross that I got from the West Village, the tight black leggings (my Madonna pants, he called them), my black choker with the silver heart, my red lace-fringed bodysuit and the vinyl biker-chick pants he got me; a book of Wicca spells, Nirvana, Hole, and Veruca Salt cassettes for our car rides, bootleg Nirvana videos, also from the West Village; cassettes with our four novels recorded on them (different voices for each character); a wooden amulet Peter gave me of a fairy looking into a crystal ball. All of this was stored in a black trunk with a broken latch that he used to keep by the foot of his bed.
Peter, you couldn't walk more than a few blocks toward the end of your life and you could no longer ride a motorcycle. You walked a little ways to the edge of a cliff at Palisades Park and there you jumped and fell 250 feet, or so the Parkway Police report stated. You left an envelope in my mailbox containing ten suicide notes and several statements on lined notebook paper signing your car over to me. You drew a map for me to find your black Mazda so I wouldn't be charged for towing and storage. You left me a copy key inside the envelope; the original key you left inside the Mazda's ignition. I was twenty-two and you were sixty-six.
Excerpted from Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso. To be published in March 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright 2011 by Margaux Fragoso. All rights reserved.
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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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