mood or the appearance of the sky made me feel that the clouds represented a layer of poison chemicals being lowered to the earth by a clever
demon. My knees began to sweat. Though I felt a sour ache in my throat,
I began to search the house.
Without my father to help, the search proceeded with lunatic ferocity.
I ripped open the closet doors, shouting “aha!” and managing only to
terrorize the cat, who fled to another room just to realize I was following
him there, too. He zipped back and forth throughout the house, his ears
laid flat on his head, giving him the look of a harried and offended aristocrat. The closets proved to be empty. No mothers hid under the tables
or beds. Her living room chair faced the window and the yard, but no
one was sitting in it. In the yard, there appeared the same pale leaves on
the same skinny trees, with the ridiculous little bushes like squiggles
added by an illustrator, the dead oak towering in the middle. I imagined
I had lately returned to the earth after a long stretch on a lunar prison
There was nothing left for me here, I thought.
That’s when I turned around and saw my mother. She stood in the
doorway between the living room and kitchen in her stiff pink shirt
and blue sweatpants. Her hair looked roughly brushed, as if by someone
else’s fingers. She smiled with such perfect slyness that I knew I was
about to chase her through the house.
I nearly snarled, but no matter, for she proved to be amazingly fast.
Her bare feet found purchase on the ceramic tiles in the kitchen as she
squeaked across them, and by the time I followed her into the den she
had hidden somewhere in the room. Bookshelves lined the walls like
giggling children, stifling a laugh as they pressed themselves out of the
way, mock-hiding. The lamp in the far corner hulked in an odd fashion. I
should have turned it on using the switch on the wall. Instead I marched
into the dim room and across the carpet. As I had when yanking open
the closet doors, I let loose a triumphant “aha,” picked up the lamp, and
jerked it out of the way. Mother should have been standing there. All I
saw was a wicker basket of Christian magazines.
Had she squished herself out of view next to one of the shelves and
sneaked out when my back was turned?
To say that anything seemed possible—well, it presupposes that I
had calculated what was likely and what was not. Chasing your mother
through your childhood home adds a hysterical tinge to every thought,