Five to One

Even my shadows couldn’t keep up with me.
 
They’d been following me from Montreal; two thick-mustached men who thought I wouldn’t notice they had no bags on a transatlantic trip.
 
I darted overboard as the ship pulled out of the harbor, their thick paws too slow to grab me. The look of surprise on their faces as I plummeted was worth it; I imagined it was the same look my father had when he discovered I was gone.
 
He’d sent them of course – on a mission to retrieve the renegade fifth Carter Quintuplet. No one would pay to see just four of them, my sisters in matching dresses and curls with moderately talented singing voices.
 
Without me, they were through.
 
Did I care? Not a wink. I finally had something of my own: a haircut I’d done in the first bus station bathroom, leaving my curls on the floor. Now I looked like me, myself, not a mirror image of four other people who I’d never been more than five feet away from in 24 years.
 
My father had been a farmer once, but he’d turned into a ringmaster in the 17 hours it took for my mother to push us out: Mona, Mary, Molly, Madeline and Midge.
 
He took us on the road before we could walk. He pinned ribbons on our chests with our names, so the press, and he, could tell us apart. We used to trade those ribbons at night. It’s hard to say which one of us is actually who, after so many years of swapping.
 
So I may not have been born Mona, but I’m her now. And there, on the dock, after I pulled myself out of the water and watched the ship with my hopeless pursuers sail for England, I saw the poster.
 
Missing: Mona Carter. The letters were big and bold. The picture could have been any of us, but the name was just mine.
 
I was finally a headliner.
 

 

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Front page image by Anita Carril.

 

GHOST WRITER is a project by Tracy Danger Mumford. New sections are released every other Sunday. If you’d like to receive email alerts—and that’s all you’ll get, a short email—saying the new one’s up, sign up here:


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