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November 29, 2023 Fiction

A Nice Memory

Jane Liddle

A Nice Memory photo

My mother’s screams woke me up. I opened my eyes and I was still on the floor. I saw my mother’s red clog slippers that I bought her from Target and that she genuinely liked. I was proud of that gift because she liked them so much, and still mentioned how comfortable they were while also providing support. A nice memory. Then I saw the blood. My mother continued to scream. I saw the broken glass next to my hand. I had knocked over my glass of water while passed out on the bathroom floor. The shards cut my hand. It was only one cut, but I must have touched my face in my sleep so my face looked cut up as well. I got up slowly. My left hand throbbed but not as much as my head. My mother stopped screaming. She looked so concerned it made me sad. “I’m okay. Just broke the glass.”

“Did you hit your head?”

“No, I was just feeling nauseous so I lay down here and ended up falling asleep.”

“Cutting yourself didn’t wake you up?”

“I was really tired.”

“I need to use the bathroom.”

I went to the kitchen to get the dustpan and paper bag. I swept up the shards. I could see small pieces of glitter when I moved my head out of the shadow of the overhead light. “I’m going to get the vacuum.”

“I can’t wait.”

“It’ll just take a second.”

I left to get the vacuum. My headache was really making itself known. As I was dragging the vacuum out from the back of the closet I heard the toilet flush. My mother washed her hands and left the bathroom as I was plugging the vacuum into the hallway outlet. She waited outside and watched as I vacuumed so I went over the floor more times than it needed

“I thought you were murdered in our own bathroom. And I slept through the whole thing!”

“What time is it?”

“Only eight. Are you working today?”

I told her that I was going to the converted barn by the mountain. A group was leaving early and a new group was coming in just two hours after, so the schedule to clean it was tight.

“Good, you have time to make me coffee.”

I went to my room and changed out of my clothes and into the sweats I usually wore around the house and on jobs. I went to the kitchen to start on that coffee. My mother was sitting at the table. It was round and pale wood and was covered with drink rings that should have been able to come off with a little bit of mayonnaise and rubbing, but I never bothered. I went to the bathroom to wash my finger, my face, brushed my teeth.  Before I turned on the faucet I heard my mother sharply intake her breath. I pretended not to hear. When I turned off the water, she did it again.

“What,” I asked.

“I think there’s a tiny bit of glass in my heel.” Another intake, this time through her teeth, like a snake.

“Let me see.” I lifted up her foot and saw nothing. Her foot felt like a man’s hand, rough from hard work and lack of lotion. I looked closer and wondered if a little red mark was something. I knew it wasn’t, that it was impossible, but also that inkling of doubt. “If we soak it in hot water, the glass will slip out,” I said with certainty that I didn’t feel.

“Is that true?”

I got a metal bowl whose function was truly all-purpose and filled it with warm water. I placed it under her feet and gently lifted her right foot into the water. I stayed down there as if I would see the glass come out. I massaged her toes a bit, then the rest of her foot. I paid special attention to her bunion, which was red as though it had been smacked. She didn’t flinch when I rubbed where we imagined the glass to be. The water stung my cut. She put her other foot into the water and I massaged that too. I glanced at my mother’s face. Her eyes were closed and she looked as if she was having a satisfying daydream.

“Oh, I just felt it slip out. Do you see it?”

“I think so.”

The coffee was ready. I poured our cups, leaving enough room for milk to make hers the color of hay. My mother went to her room and turned on the television. I examined my hand, which made it hurt more. When I pulled the skin of my cut apart the wound looked like a creviss, like the ones in rock formations I used to hike. My whole palm ached. I had only a couple of more hours until I had to go to work so I mentally did the math of time. I could lie down for one hour, eat breakfast in ten minutes, shower in five, be dressed and out in five, that got me to the barn with and hour an forty-five, which would be the absolute minimum I could do, and that was if the people left the place decently, something I couldn’t count on. I would need luck.

I turned the math over in my head, tried to relax, looked at the clock. The coffee helped with the fogginess but not the nausea. I gave up on math and took a shower, holding my hand out of the stream as much as I could. I dried myself off, combed my hair, towel dried it more or less, went to my room, put on new underwear and the old sweats. I said bye to my mother and she said bye without looking at me, instead watching some daytime reality show on the only TV in the apartment. But she did say bye, which was a good sign. No usual sarcastic partings, no random silent treatment. Seeing her daughter lying on the floor covered in blood must have been a nightmare, but she was unusually calm and content when I left. I thought about her mood for the entire drive, how long I could rely on its grace. Perhaps all I needed to do was to traumatize her daily, and all would remain in balance.