Child in Need of Services

I have exactly three party tricks.

In the first, I turn my left arm around twice and touch my scapulas with a flat hand. “This ghastly gift grows from the near-compound fracture of my humerus, age seven, at the Oakland Elementary School playground,” I chirrup in explanation.

No one saw me fall, and an eschaton of seconds passed before I could scream since I knocked my own wind out on impact. As I scanned the playground, mute, I wondered if I ought to re-invite Jesus into my heart just in case, and who would tell my mother if this was how I died.

In my second trick, I size any man at the party for a dress shirt, suit jacket, and trousers. When I nail it, I do a brief tap dance, bow, and note this was my cock-blocking maneuver when I was seventeen and worked in the Kohl’s men’s department.

I didn’t date until college, and I had been all but frog-marched with the rest of my church youth group through a True Love Waits pledge ceremony. The male physique was shrouded in mystery, sex was riddled with life-wrecking risk, and more than one middle-aged Kohl’s perv (17.5/32-33; 48R; 36 x 30) feigned innocence on his inseam: “Hon, if you wouldn’t mind measuring…”

Survival means staying just one step ahead. Charm, even as a mask for fear, also helps.

In the third, I hold court by undertaking Online Research of friends’ romantic interests, exes, and badly behaved colleagues. If there’s a DUI, I will find it. Post couple-y pics on Facebook before the divorce was finalized? Chronology matters. In arrears on property taxes? Public information. Claim on LinkedIn you’ve got a PhD when the school only offers an EdD? Red flag forest.

My searching prowess, I will omit at the party, comes from trying – and failing – to find one person. She gave birth to me in July of 1980, and, according to the Department of Child Services in Walworth County, Wisconsin, I was removed from her care one year later.

In juvenile court legal parlance, I became a Child in Need of Services.

CHINS case J-C008361364-KJ8748.

This CHINS case closed January of 1986, according to the Department of Child Services in Walworth County, Wisconsin.

But the investigation is ongoing.

Amanda Skofstad lives and writes in South Bend and Chicago. She holds an MFA from Bennington College, and her poetry has been published by Free State Review.

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