We played tag, racing around my swing set, careful to avoid the pastel-striped poles with their flaking paint chips and rust spots.
“My grandma was raked,” a girl from up the street revealed.
“Raked?” My eight-year-old brain imagined an elderly woman being scraped raw by a garden tool.
“Yeah, a bad man stuck his thing in her. She was raked.”
At daycare, a preteen prone to pushing me around said her mom told her about a woman who was pregnant with a baby she didn’t want: “She rammed a coat hanger through her belly button and killed herself.”
I recoiled, pressing a hand to my navel. That night, I dreamed of a small skeleton propped up on a wood stove.
Later in the summer a friend called, interrupting my reading of Charlotte’s Web. “Did you hear about Hannah?” she asked. In our tiny non-secular school, everyone knew who Hannah was. “She died in a car crash.”
I hung up the phone and went to my father, the source of information in our household, with his daily paper and habit of watching the evening news.
“Hannah’s dead,” I blurted. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I thought it would upset you.” His gruff voice softened. “I thought you didn’t need to know.”