Apricity Press Issue #1 - Page 35

Mother slept with those five carcasses every night from them on. She named them all: Gabriel, Raphael, Azrael, Michael, and Joseph. She used to put them on top of her copy of the Children’s Bible. The front cover depicted Noah leading the animals onto the ark, a beautiful watercolor complete with smiling faces and blissful beasts. The birds flying above him looked peaceful, prepared for the flood. The bird corpses seemed beautiful then, propped up against holy words and holy deeds. But then the moment passed and mother saw only dead artichokes.

Five months later mother started to cut herself. She would carve lines into her back, blood rushing down her buttocks and legs until it pooled in a bright splash between her feet. She would endure these nightly carvings without a sound. Only a soft cooing, the sound that had slowly been driving the family crazy over the past two months.

Sally walked in on my mother once when she was cutting into her back. “What are you doing?” Sally asked, rushing to get a towel.

A thin smile spread over my mother’s lips. “I’m waiting for my wings.”

The first hospital visit came shortly after. Then the medication, the suicide watch, the worried looks in the living room. The scars on her back were healing, but she would scratch them raw again. She refused to speak.

In the hospital shortly before my mother’s death, Sally showed me pictures of mother around that time. She had the same flaming red hair and strained smile I had seen in every family photo, but there was something different, something off. Her eyes seemed to gaze out at you, recognizing that someone was there but completely apathetic to their existence. She looked like a trapped animal just waiting to be set loose.

I returned to the old house to gather some of her things after the funeral. In the closet I found the shoebox and the Children’s Bible and the bird corpses. They were just bones now. As I laid down on the bed, feeling the thin cotton beneath my fingers, I stared at the remains and thought of their odd beauty, their eerie holiness. I thought of grandpa tilting his hat in the Montana sun. I thought of Noah trapped in the flood. And I thought of mother, cooing to herself in her bedroom.