Her Sister’s Tattoo by Ellen Meeropol

Her Sister's Tattoo

Her Sister’s Tattoo by Ellen Meeropol
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 2.5 MB

Rosa and Esther march through downtown Detroit in August 1968 to protest the war in Vietnam. When a bloodied teenager reports that mounted police are beating protestors a few blocks away, the young women hurry to offer assistance. They try to stop the violence, but an officer is injured and the sisters are arrested. Rosa sees an opportunity to protest the war in court. Esther has an infant daughter and wants to avoid prison, which means accepting a plea bargain and testifying against her sister.

Told from multiple points of view and through the sisters’ never-mailed letters, Her Sister’s Tattoo explores the thorny intersection of family loyalty and clashing political decisions

The August air was charged with whiffs of marijuana and patchouli oil, the sulfur stench of asphalt softening in the heat, and the distant admonition of tear gas. Protesters overflowed the broad expanse of Woodward Avenue and spilled onto the sidewalk. Their chants ricocheted off the brick faces of the squat downtown Detroit buildings. And the excitement. Excitement had a peppery smell all of its own.

At the front of the demonstration, Esther let herself be pushed along by the zeal of the march, elbows linked with her sister Rosa on her left and their best friend Maggie on her right. Maggie lowered the bullhorn and handed it to Esther.

“Your turn,” Maggie said. “I’ve got to save my voice. I’m on medic duty soon.”

Shaking her head, Esther passed the bullhorn to Rosa, who raised it to her lips. “Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?”

Esther joined the chant, her voice hoarse, a good kind of sore. To their left, three eight-foot-tall puppets dressed in military uniforms splashed with red paint swayed to the chants. The puppets bobbled and bowed to the National Guard troops stationed in front of Hudson’s Department Store. Mama used to bring the girls to Hudson’s every year for back-to-school shopping until a store clerk was murdered and Mama swore she’d never again set foot in the store. The neighborhood had become too dangerous.

Beaming, Rosa squeezed Esther’s arm against her ribs. “Isn’t this great?”

Esther squeezed back. She loved it all, her sister’s fireworks smile and the two elderly women shuffling next to them sharing a metal walker and the guy on the sidewalk cheering and waving his Detroit baseball cap, even though she could swear he was chanting, “Go get ‘em, Tigers!” Most of all she loved feeling bonded cell to cell, not only to Rosa and Maggie, but to every single one of the tens of thousands of people in the crowd as they all marched for a single shared cause: ending the Vietnam War.

Rosa pointed the bullhorn toward a couple marching on the edge of the crowd. A sleeping infant snuggled between the woman’s breasts, his white sailor hat shading his red cheeks and his mouth pursed with dreams of nursing.

“See?” Rosa said. “You could’ve brought Molly.”

Esther shook her head. A demonstration was no place for a five-month-old. “That’s not what Mama said.”

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