1. After my father abandoned her, my mother moved back to the country to live with her sister in the house in which they grew up. My aunt was feeble, as she’d been in childhood, but my mother was still strong from farm labor and still resentful of her sister, whom she considered an indulged malingerer. Mother did some labor for local farmers, put on overalls and pulled on high boots. Behind her back they called her “Martha the Hired Man.” She had a better work ethic than any of them, though she could be mean to the animals if they gave her trouble.
2. My father withdraws from the babbling world. “Loathsome” is the word that best describes that place.
3. The plaster in the farmhouse was cracked and getting worse as the building, after a century, continued to settle. My mother bought adjustable metal poles from the Hardware, went into the leaky basement, did some wrenching, propped up the first floor. She stood with her hands on two of the poles and felt like Samson chained to the temple columns after Delilah had cut his hair.
4. People make my father’s skin crawl.
5. The cellar clutter depressed Mom. She carried the cream separator upstairs and flung it into the yard. She put her arms around the gasoline-powered washing machine—it must have weighed three hundred pounds—and carried it up the unpainted, rickety stairs. She fired up her dad’s ’55 Chevy pickup and backed it up, ran over some day lilies her mother had planted.
6. In my dad’s workshop are guitars in various stages of completion.
7. My mother drove to Padnos’s recycling yard, where she sent all the metal crashing to the ground. Smoke drifted around her. A front loader shoved around mountains of junk. Rain was starting to come down. She took the grubby bills the attendant gave her and drove back to the farmhouse, the truck rattling over every rut.
8. Redwood, rosewood, maple. Dad finally found bodies and necks he could adore.
9. Mother went into her bedroom, where she had a laptop hooked to a satellite. She went back to what she’d been doing for most of the day, staring at photos of international orphans with cleft palates and abused dogs and cats needing rescue.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois‘ work has appeared in several literary magazines. He has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize.