unmoors whatever has kept you from feeling demented. As I turned
from the wicker basket, my chances of finding her multiplied by a factor
that only a deluded man could guess. We’ll say three.
The kitchen was empty. No one hid in the hallway.
Though the living room furniture afforded multiple places to hide, I
didn’t find her cowering behind the chairs or underneath the couch. In
the end, I marched from room to room, up and down the stairs, shouting the word mother, which under the circumstances seemed to have less
and less connection with her and therefore, by some inversely proportional power of feeling, made me all the more desperate to find her. As if
even in the word mother itself she was missing, and I had to restore the
meaning of the reference. Near the end of my search, as I grew weary
on the stairs, like an explorer collapsing as he crests a final dune, I tried
once to say her real name.
“Mallory,” I cried.
No answer came.
Exhausted, I reached the landing halfway up the steps and collapsed
I had a dream in which a door kept slamming, and woke at dawn. The
light on the stairs was the color of an eggplant. When I lifted my head, a
silver strand of saliva connected me for a moment to one of the steps. I
wiped it away and called for my father.
In the kitchen, I found the evidence of his arrival and hasty departure. He had come in the night and eaten a sandwich, an egg. Two dishes
in the sink were shattered. The rest of the house appeared in similar
disarray, as though a party of carousers had indulged in a silent bacchanal while I slumbered between the first and second floors. Turned on its
back, the couch had been ripped open like the carcass of a whale. Bits of
cushion spread across the floor. One of the bookshelves had fallen over
or been pushed, its innards spilled out like wings, a mess to either side.
Here and there, too, were signs of a struggle. In the spare room upstairs,
two long streaks in the floor showed where someone had been pulled
from underneath the bed and dragged against the grain of the white rug.
In another room, the closet had spewed out its contents, as if someone
had been wrenched from the hiding place with great violence.
The garage provided definitive evidence. Fresh tire streaks marked
the floor, and I could picture my father maniacally arriving and leaving