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Michelle Reale
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Third Eye Blind

 

Michelle Reale

 

 

          “Tiny seeds of melancholy took root in the cradle, poor boy,” the mother said, with an attempt at eloquence.

 

          “Well, let me tell you this,” the daughter pleads.  “Here’s what it’s like.” She hesitates because the mother closes her eyes and hums a ditty like she doesn’t have a care in the world.  Breathless, the daughter begins again. “They push him up against a wall, they are in his face, and his feet barely touch the pavement; they’ve got him on his tippy toes.”  She gulps, turns rosy in some areas of her neck and cheeks. “ ‘Dance,’ ” they tell him.  She pauses, feels the blood travel and bloom in her chest.  She looks down at her feet.

 

          “Go on,” the mother says, her eyes narrowing.

 

          “ ‘What kind of flowers do you want at your funeral?’ they ask him, ” the daughter reports, breathless. 

 

          “And you?” the mother asks, with a slight tone of caring.

 

          “They leave me alone,” she answers, with guilt.

 

          The mother tilts her head and smiles crookedly. “My girl.”

 

          The sad face she makes reminds the daughter of a mask she’s seen someplace before, the veneer that made her want to break it into pieces. The mother slurs as if in an aquatic dream. She hooks her lips onto the thick rim of a sweating glass, full of amber liquid.  She holds her cigarette aloft, regally, in the air.

 

          The daughter looks around the room. She hears the wind outside.  It tunnels and roars. The mother glances at the window and pulls the granny square afghan closer to her, covers her small feet.

 

          “I know more than you think I do,” she says, like it is an afterthought.

 

          Still holding the cigarette, she parts her hair, frizzed and gray at the roots, and points toward the back of her head. “This ‘eye’ sees everything. I am watching the two of you always,” she slurs.

 

          She dozes momentarily and then wakes with a start.  Her cigarette burns down to the filter, filling the air with the pungent stink of burning leaves.

 

          The daughter remembers that the Japanese call autumn the “season of grief,” but she cannot remember when or how she learned of this.

 

          “What does everyone want from me? the mother cries with anger.  Then: “The boy will have to learn like we all do.”

 

          After the outburst, the mother falls into the deep sleep of the dead and dying.  The wind continues to roar as the afternoon creeps into evening. The house falls into the premature and hazardous darkness of autumn. All ordinary objects are obscured and no lights will be lit.  Everyone in the house learns to move by instinct.

 

          The daughter shrugs her shoulders into her ears. She grabs her hair.  Before her body can release a pent-up sob, she hears her brother emerge from his room at the top of the stairs.

 

           Vulnerability is everywhere, she thinks.

 

          He calls her to him. 

 

          She looks at him as if he were a shadow, his hands flapping wildly.

 

          Without a backward glance to the mother, the daughter will hesitate for only a moment before she follows him upstairs. 

 

 

 

 

Michelle Reale is an academic librarian.  Her work has been published in Verbsap, Apt, Monkeybicycle, JMWW, Pequin, Drunk and Lonely, The Blue Print Review, Dogzplot, and others.  One of her stories was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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