||[Jun. 25th, 2009|10:44 pm]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
We had to expand on one of our previous exercises. I chose the previous one entitled 'sloppy'.|
I watched my mother fix my breakfast from behind lazy half closed lids, hung heavily like weighted blinds masking her wilted movements. She took no care in the process, slapping batter and spewing syrup in every which direction. Her weathered, bony hands poured juice from a pitcher so that once reaching the top it overflowed from the cup to spill plentifully across the counter and onto the dusty floor. Smoke billowed from the pan as she listlessly stirred tar black eggs into an indistinguishable heap. I sat at the round kitchen table, cold lapping at my uncovered appendages while my numb fingers tapped softly on faded checkered cloth. A deep, humid breath tasted of ashes and pancakes.
She was such a pitiful lump of expired flesh. I looked on, frozen, as the back of her frazzled nightcap bobbed sloppily up and down with each step between the refrigerator and the sink. Her lips, moving in a slow pulse as if to the rhythm of my tapping, spoke a raspy muttered song. A once perfect pitch was soured through age, as piano strings loosen by dust and wear. Each haunting note staggered from her tightened lips like hobbled knees dragging awkward, useless feet. It was the type of melody I’d last heard her sing at a cradle, or perhaps a grave.
“Hal is comin’ in the back porch. Gonna fix the window,” she muttered nonsense to the faucet once her song had come to an end. She wasn’t talking to me. She was telling the walls, the spoons and forks, the broken clock, but she wasn’t telling me.
“He came last Sunday to mend the pipes. Tomorrow he’ll paint the shutters.” The whispers tumbled from her like little broken histories. “Hal’s got that big straw hat. Keeps out the sun.” Her movements grew faster with rapid twitches and tweaks. Her stubby fingers were strung firmly around one glass as she raised her eyes up towards the tattered window. There the pane was broken and through the lax filter of a screen gusts of chilled wind blew inside.
“I think tomorrow he’ll be by for dinner. Delia, can you put on a pan?”
Her grip tightened across the cup as her protruding eyes probed the hole in that window, grasping at the dull grey sky.
It’d been seven years since she’d made me breakfast, or even seen my face, and I was almost pleased to find that she’d decayed as much as our rancid little house.
“Hal’s dead,” I told her before she could shatter the glass. Her muscles may have appeared too weak for the task, but I knew fierce little embers still smoldered behind those slackened cataracts.
There was a stretch of time in which she didn’t move at all, and for once we were matched in unison. We became frozen kitschy statues that finally coordinated with the décor of such a broken home.
“Delia’s dead too,” I added as if to throw more fuel on the heap of trash I was preparing to burn.
In answer the stark clank of glass dropping against porcelain sounded as her vein-ridden hands were thrown into the air, fingers tense and widespread as if she were praising the heavens. Then, in a series of mechanical like motions, she turned to face me.
“You might as well be dead,” she spat, fine specks of curdled phlegm flying from between twisted teeth. Those words, this time, were meant just for me. “The others are all in the ground,” her bulging eyes narrowed on the swollen scar that ran from the base of my thumb across my forearm and up along my shoulder. “Join them,” she taunted with a flick of both gaunt wrists. “Feed the worms.”
She had once been a viper; a stellar vessel of beauty, wit, and charm. Now I was sure she had gradually been carved out like a pumpkin, the innards thrown away year by year until she was totally empty.
“They get little pieces of me every so often,” I held up a hand to offer her the small consolation of a missing ring finger.
As I expected her thin lips parted in the disturbing wraith of a smile.
“Why’d you come back?” she chewed on her words as she spoke them. Each one felt laborious. “Thought I’d be gone? Thought you’d get this house?”
I shook my downturned head for a moment before rising to see one edge of that grin falter with the spasm of a muscle.
“Thought maybe you’d finally killed this heart of mine?” she continued, her voice growing hoarse with gravelly breaths. For a moment I thought that a hint of a laugh might be bubbling in her throat, but instead a harsh cough emerged from the depths of her chest. A hand clasped claw-like across her right shoulder until the episode ceased. When her eyes reopened there was a new layer of mist across each muddy pupil.
“You know me,” it was my turn to chance a careful grin. “I’ve never been that lucky.”