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When She Thought of Her Mother
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When she thought of her mother, she more often than not pictured a bird — a small nervous creature, delicate and hollow-boned, flitting from one housekeeping task to the next. There were mouths to feed, stray twigs to clear, shiny discarded objects to secret away. And all the while her mother would emit chirps, not of a melodic variety, but rather short, sharp bursts of pique…soundings and warnings, as if falling silent would signal her ultimate demise. So when the man dressed in black — from the fine shiny leather of his squeaky loafers, along the knife-pleated legs of his woolen trousers, across the mound of his belly straining the buttons of his long-sleeved shirt, up to the tight round collar that framed the stark white square nestled in the hollow of the crepe skin on his throat — came to the house that summer morning, and a hush fell over the living room, she knew something had gone very wrong. Her mother had lapsed from fretting over serving tall sweating glasses of chilled lemonade and thick slices of fudge icebox cake on the good china with the good silver, to sitting stock still, perched on the edge of a worn couch cushion, her hands clasped so hard in her lap that even the tips of her usually red and calloused fingers were bloodless.


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