Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 16

16 | Psychopomp Magazine

until a janitor let you out.

“The chicken’s cold,” she says. You put it in the microwave and set the table.

Dad never ate at the table but instead sank into his armchair by the window and in front of the TV. You and Mother curled on the couch, trays full of lukewarm Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes. She always scraped the gravy from the bottom of the tray. She still does with her cheese. She’s finished the chicken and your dad’s not there because he’s dead and she doesn’t know that because she took a few pills this morning, the ones that are the color of embalming fluid.

She asks you about the car like you knew she would and you tell her about Ray, about his wife and the sandwiches, and you know she’s listening but her eyes are somewhere else, somewhere you wish you could go but no, you’re sitting here with your mother in a kitchen that stinks like burnt popcorn and you’re carrying on a conversation by yourself because she’s really not listening. Johnny always listened. You tried telling her about him once, over the phone, about Olivia, but she told you to stop it, said it was wrong for you to carry on like that.

“Your father’s upstairs,” she says.

“I know.”

The backdoor light flickers as you pour out the beer. You hate the way it smells but love the sound of it hitting the ground, soaking the dead grass. You’ve got a job interview in the morning. You think you might skip it. You’re tired and your mother’s asleep but she won’t be in a few hours and then neither will you. No, you’ll stay here and tell Mr. Bilwater that you found an opportunity elsewhere but you really appreciate his offer and you hope he finds another suitable secretary, except you won’t say secretary, you’ll say office assistant or something like that. You’ll say no because you can’t imagine yourself behind a desk shuffling papers. You can’t imagine yourself with Johnny anymore but that’s different.

The empty beer bottle feels light like plastic in your hand but when you squeeze it doesn’t break. You use both hands and try again and then wash them in the sink. The blood slithers down the drain and you wish you could cut yourself open and see what’s inside, then make the necessary changes. You wonder if you’d work better with pills, little things meant to correct the aftermath of wrecked adolescence. But they don’t help her so why would they help you?