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August 1, 2008 | Fiction

A Little Bit Orphaned

J.M. Patrick

A Little Bit Orphaned photo

My mother is in every room of her house. The kitchen keeps her fingerprints in the flour jar, her lipstick stains on the wine glasses. She left a note on the refrigerator that says: Gone grocery shopping, and I don't know who it's for. In the refrigerator I expect to find something homemade — something with garlic or oregano or rosemary. Instead, there are five oranges and a box of tissues.

The mirror above the couch in the living room reflects the mirror above the TV, which reflects a wall of pictures she hung when I was little. Here she is, holding my hand at a birthday party. Here she is, at my high school graduation. Here she is with my father, twenty-five years ago when her hair was still blonde and his back was still straight, standing at the foot of a redwood tree. Here she is, alone in the backyard with a book in her lap. She's smiling at the camera, one finger still poised on the page so she wouldn't forget where she left off.

On her dresser I find thirty-seven cents, the coins arranged by size. I find a tie clip, a five dollar bill folded in thirds and the broken clasp of a bra. In the top drawer, I find a prescription for Zyprexa. Since I've been gone, no one has watered her plants. The dried leaves of a fern make a scratching sound as I walk. They scatter like spiders when I open the window.

In the den, the carpet has changed. The deep blue that I remember, the well-worn patch from the doorway to the couch, the stain in the corner where the cat slept, have all been replaced by a flat carpet the color of smoke. She has a computer now. As I wait for it to whir to life, I open the desk drawers. They're all empty.

I search Zyprexa on Wikipedia. I highlight antipsychotic with the cursor, which is a small yellow cat that mews and grooms when something is loading. When I close the screen, the bright blue of the desktop is blinding.

In the bathroom, only the shower curtain has changed. Instead of tan, it is now the blue of exotic oceans. She still keeps the extra toilet paper in the bottom drawer. She still has a thick pink rug in front of the toilet. I open the cabinets. I find nail polish (red), lipstick (red), and a box of ibuprofen. I find bobby pins, cough syrup, contact lens cleaner and a hairbrush. I get on my hands and knees and look under the sink. All I find is the bathroom scale, which is stuck at 135, as though her weight is the only one it can hold.

image: Ryan Molloy


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