by Meg Tuite
Our house is in shadow. Huddled trees blur the claw-like splotches of grass. Scudding past the accident of family inside is Dad who moves into the attic when I am twelve. The blurred figures inhabit other floors.
Mom dwarfs even more. The wind rattles within her tiny face as she scrapes the batter into a bundt cake tin. We are clumps of indistinct ripples. Land is a ragged bluff of benumbed siblings on couches and shag carpeting confirming it’s just another Saturday. We can hear the apparition upstairs creaking around.
One girl I know has a mom who is divorced. Her mom dyes her hair ferocious red and wears a nightgown all day. The girl hasn’t seen her dad in over half her life. She swears at teachers and doesn’t have a curfew.
Mom skitters around the kitchen all day, hemmed in by the soothing pillars of Magnum PI, Cagney and Lacey, The Love Boat, Happy Days, and our voices drifting in and out from the living room. The voyage of mingling cake and meatloaf scents pulse through the house. Nobody says a word when Mom calls us for dinner.
We sit in our usual places at the table. The empty chair cuffs its arms around each of us.
‘You think you can start eating without me?’ A head is smacked.
‘Who runs this household, you leeches?’ Paralysis sets in. We are mute.
A door upstairs snaps shut. All forks are set down on plates. Each roar of a shoe on a step beats closer. Mom hurries to the kitchen, returns with another place setting.
Later, after Dad has eaten two helpings of dinner and dessert, and clutches a bottle of scotch to take upstairs, I look up the word separation in the dictionary.
Meg Tuite is author of four story collections and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Poetry award for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging. She teaches at Santa Fe Community College, is senior editor at Connotation Press, associate editor at Narrative Magazine and fiction editor at Bending Genres.