We’d call each other when it came.
From the kitchen telephones in our homes
five dusty, farm-chemical-soaked miles away,
we’d divvy up the pages; everything
on the left mine, everything on the right Lori’s.
We’d skip the power tools and appliances
and go for the housewares, clothes and toys.
If I liked the dad in the forest green wool coat
with the fleece lining she’d trade it for the dad
in the navy Scandinavian print sweater.
She’d choose the Batman costume worn
by the little blond boy and I’d trade it
for the princess gown with the silver tiara
that she said looked silly. On the rare occasions
when we disagreed, we might agree to an exchange,
say, like the plaid skirt for two long-sleeved blouses,
one checkered with a cowgirl yoke, the other
striped. We got our moms new sheets and curtains,
and from the children’s section we’d sometimes decide
to trade the kids for new siblings and ignore the clothes
altogether. We’d trade boys’ toys, girls’ toys, guns
and ammo, shower curtains, and even, if we were
in the mood, couches and toilets. After an hour or so
of trading, someone would need the phone and realize
how long we’d been on it. We’d hand over
the receiver, sticky and hot from use, and plan
to finish the next day where we’d left off, on page
382. This went on until the time she made me mad
and I got back at her by telling someone else
about the secret language we’d made up
and by the time we decided to be friends again,
something happened that my parents didn’t tell me
about and we moved away, leaving behind a friendship
sealed between the pages of a Sears catalog.
© by Tamara Madison.
Used with the author’s permission.