Only Heaven

by Elizabeth Brown



"Like Heaven up there?" Mrs. Goldberg asks. She has silver hair and thick glasses; she points to the ceiling. Her finger is bony and crooked.


"My, what an interesting name. Do you have another name people call you?"

"No, only Heaven."

Papa said I was a gift from heaven, she wants to say, before Mami and Nana died, before Papa got Yolanda. Instead she stares, expectantly, at Mrs. Goldberg's face, fingering the ruffle on the bottom of her dress. Nana bought it last week from the Nearly New store. Now Nana is with the angels. Mami is too. Mami was mad, said the rent was due. Nana winked, whispered "First day of Kindergarten is a special day."

She waits to hear Mrs. Goldberg say, I like your dress, Heaven.

"Quiet one, aren't you?" She holds her hand. It is ice-cold.

I lost my tooth, she wants to say.

 "Circle time."

Heaven finds her square, Z for Zebra, sits crisscross apple sauce. She finds the hole and moves her tongue over it, repeatedly.

"Miss Rodriguez, I'm surprised. We just talked about the rules. In the garbage, please."

Heaven pretends to spit gum into the garbage, walks back to her Zebra. She looks quick, catches eyes; they glitter like the charms on Mrs. Goldberg's bracelet.

"One two three...count with me."

* * *

Heaven found her tooth on the coffee table. Papa forgot it. She crept downstairs after Papa was snoring and Yolanda was draped over him. Nana said the tooth fairy gave her a quarter. "I bought a ball of yarn. Your Nana loved to knit."

* * *

"Let's see. Who is our meteorologist today?" Mrs. Goldberg reaches into a can. She pulls out a Popsicle stick, looks at the name written on the side. "Sherman Bassos."

Sherman stands, excitedly, spins, hops, yanks at his pants.

"On the count of three…What's the weather? What's the weather?"

Heaven moves her lips.

"Is it sunny? Is it rainy?"

* * *

It rained last night. Papa drank and smoked with Yolanda, the woman he brought home after Nana's funeral.

"Where did you get her, Papa?" Heaven asked.

"Oh, she's a cutie. I want one, Papi. Give me one," Yolanda whined.  

"You can't have me," Heaven said in her meanest voice.

"Oh no. Papi, you got to teach her some manners."

"Go outside," Papa said.

Heaven stood on the porch until the rain fell like globs; she crawled inside the car, put her hands on the wheel, pretending to drive. Thunder boomed and she ran inside, left the door ajar.

"Ven aqui, ahora!" Papa yelled later that night. He held a belt, said it was about time. "You got $80.00 for a battery?"

He grabbed her arm, she wiggled free, slipped, hit her mouth on the bed post.

* * *

"What's the weather today?"

* * *

"Stop crying like a baby.  Big girls lose baby teeth," Papa said, holding out tissues. "I'll clean it for you."

Blood grew on the tissue, looked like the flower in Mami's scarf, the one she wore on Sundays.

* * *

"One two three eyes on me."

"One two eyes on you!"

* * *

"Angels have her now," Nana told her. Mami's tanned skin turned white like Mrs. Goldberg's.

"I hate angels." Nana was buckling her in.

Nana held her cheeks, squeezed. "You want to be damned? Answer me!"

 "No, Nana," Heaven muttered. She imagined flames burning her skin like Pastor Emilio warned.

"The damned will suffer the eternal flames!"  He shouted madly, pointing.

 "That's passion for the Lord, baby." Nana closed her eyes, swayed when she said it.

* * *

"These are your very own paper feet, boys and girls; you will stand on these every day when we line up in our classroom. So do your best coloring. No scribble dibble."

* * *

Heaven paid a penny for him. Ms. Cooper, the neighbor, held him in her fleshy arms.

"I can have him?"

"You don't get nothing for free." She winked.

"How much?"

"How much you have?"

Heaven pulled out two coins, a nickel and a penny. "I only got this."

"Oh, I think kitty is worth at least a penny, don't you, Nana?"

"That sounds right to me."

Heaven handed Ms. Cooper the penny, feeling smart.

"She knows her money." Ms. Cooper laughed.

Nana died that night in her sleep.

* * *

At the end of the day, Heaven says "I lost my tooth."

"Already? Mrs. Goldberg smiles. "No gum tomorrow, remember." Heaven waits for Mrs. Goldberg to say her name. "Is Daddy picking up?"

Heaven shakes her head, yes, even though she's not sure. She's not sure of anything anymore, except for maybe the tooth fairy.

Papa never comes. She points to a parent and says "There he is," walks the 1/2 mile home, alone, thinking of Penny, the tooth fairy, what she'll do with her quarter.

At home, she hears Papa and Yolanda noises in the bedroom, across from the kitchen. Penny is under a chair. She coaxes him out, tries to give him dry cereal dipped in ketchup. She catches him by the tail, carries him up the stairs into Nana's bedroom, which is hers now. She puts her dress back on the hanger, hooks it on the closet door handle for tomorrow. She takes out a plastic bag with bread inside, folds one piece of bread into tiny squares, hops up on Nana's bed and nibbles it. When the light is gone, she checks the tooth under her pillow, imagines buying a bracelet with silver charms like Mrs. Goldberg's. Penny jumps up, purrs loudly. Heaven feels the vibration on her feet, giggles. Suddenly, she knows how she will use her quarter. She folds her hands under the covers: "Dear Lord Jesus, please oh please Lord, send the tooth fairy to my house. Penny needs so some food to eat so he won't die like Mami and Nana. Amen.

BIO: Elizabeth Brown is a native of Connecticut.  Her short fiction is published or forthcoming in BareBack Magazine, Empty Sink Publishing, TreeHouse, Bartleby Snopes, Contraposition, and Sleet Magazine's spring edition (2014). She studied writing at the University of Connecticut under Wally Lamb and Joan Joffe Hall and is a two time recipient of the 1997 and 1998 Jennie Hackman Memorial Award for Short Fiction. She is currently at work on a dystopian novel.