Authors: Ann Dee Ellis
“Mom,” I say louder. She turns her head a little toward me but is still looking at the ceiling.
Then I say, “I went to yoga. Mrs. Dean took me.”
“I think you might’ve liked it or maybe not.”
“Is yoga stupid?”
“She got me these clothes.”
I pull out the skirt and the T-shirts and the pink thing.
She closes her eyes and breathes really deep. I hold the clothes up for when she opens her eyes.
She just breathes deep.
So I say, “Actually, your breathing is very good. It’s a rejuvenating breath called Ujjiya or something and that’s another
thing I wanted to show you.”
I put the clothes down and I pull the covers off her.
But first I open the window and the blinds so she can reset her system.
Then I say, “Keep breathing really deep through your nose.”
Then I say, “Okay, I’m going to help you do something from yoga. It will help you, I think.”
Her eyes are still closed but she is doing the breath and it is almost like Darth Vader.
So then I try to do this but it isn’t easy.
I say, “It’s called Modified Bridge Pose.” I put my hand on her shoulders and say, “Bend your knees.”
She doesn’t so I have to make her bend her knees. Her nightgown falls down to her stomach.
I look at her thighs.
Blue white and red.
Like the flag.
She doesn’t move or try to cover up. She just keeps breathing.
“Good, Mom,” I said. “Good concentration.” Then I said, “Now get on your shoulders.”
But I can’t really explain what I mean because it’s not easy to explain. I say, “Like put your arms underneath your body and
curve onto your shoulders.”
She doesn’t and I am holding her knees so they will stay bent.
I let them go to show her the shoulder part, and they go back down.
“Mom, you have to do some of it,” I say. Her eyes are still closed.
So I get her knees back up and I try again. I say, “Go up with your butt and stomach in the air but your shoulders on the
She lies there. Breathing.
“Mom, please try this. Please.”
She doesn’t move.
I let go of her knees again and they slide back down.
I can do this.
So I lie down on the bed.
“Like this, Mom.” I do one. “Just do what I’m doing. It’s called Modified Bridge Pose. It’s supposed to help.”
She won’t open her eyes.
“Open your eyes, Mom.”
Please open your eyes and try this. Something is starting to come up my throat but I bite on it.
Mom’s eyes are still closed. She is breathing deep and my tongue is bleeding.
Finally I say, “Mom, do you think I act like a little kid?”
Later, when Bill comes over to help Mom, he yells to the front room, “What are all these clothes doing on the bed?”
I switch the channel to
Wheel of Fortune.
“It’s one thing to have all your crap on the floor, but you can’t have stuff on the bed. Okay? You’ve got to keep stuff off
the bed, Mazzy.”
Bill would be bad at
Wheel of Fortune.
One time I gave Mom a cup of noni juice.
Norma gave it to me because she found it in her fridge and said, “Maybe your mom would like this. It’s supposed to be healthy.”
“What is it?”
“Exotic fruit juice delivers superior antioxidants.”
She was reading from the label.
“What are antioxidants?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Not sure, but I’ve heard this juice fixes everything.”
“That’s what I heard, on the Web site and around,” she said.
“Why do you have it?”
“Even if I don’t look like it, I’m trying to be healthy.”
“Oh,” I said, and pulled another weed because I help her pull weeds almost every day now.
I got up and sat with her at the table.
Instead of lemonade, we had Fresca and a bottle of noni juice.
“Does it work?” I asked. I don’t like Norma’s lawn chair because my butt was going through the plastic slats.
“Umm, I don’t know.”
“You haven’t tried it?”
“Not yet. I don’t like how it smells. Plus I just buy the stuff; I don’t drink it.”
I opened the lid and smelled it: barf.
Then we ate Twinkies and I ate three almonds from a bowl she brought out.
“Can I take this home?”
“Of course you can,” she said, and handed me another Twinkie.
WINKIES AT SUNSET
: oils on canvas
So that night after two reruns, I put the juice in one of her yellow cups and take it with the sorbet and pills.
I almost drop the tray when I get in there because she is sitting in the chair by the dresser looking at the album.
She turns a page and doesn’t look at me.
It is Olivia’s album. The one she keeps under the bed. She’d gotten up and crawled under the bed.
I hold my breath and she turns another page.
Then I say again, “You’re up.” Another page.
Her hair is matted against her head and she’d put on an Eeyore sweatshirt that I’d gotten from Disneyland when I went with
Dad on a special broadcast.
She didn’t like that sweatshirt.
Still nothing, just another page.
I step over a pile of pants and then some shoes and put the tray on her bed table.
I sit on the bed and watch her. Her face is so hard. So white and hard and skinny.
I look at my hands and sit. And sit. I sit like that and she sits like that for over an hour. She starts the album over and
over and I sit and sit.
“Mom? Do you want your pills?”
The sorbet is a puddle and I don’t know if the noni juice has to be cold.
A while later I am lying on the bed.
On my side watching her.
Then on my back.
On my side again.
On my back.
Page after page after page.
I wake up the next morning and she is next to me — her knees in her chest and her breathing heavy.
The sorbet puddle is still there but the pills and noni are gone.
And one more thing; her hand is touching my hair.
One week after the text message, Dad calls again.
“I’m going to try to come home this weekend.”
I’m melting eleven marshmallows because Lisa dropped some off.
“Did you hear me, Maz?”
The microwave beeps.
“Am I on speakerphone?”
I open it and the marshmallows aren’t done.
I push .30 and start.
“Maz . . . Maz, answer me.”
I turn on the light and watch the marshmallows go around and around.
“Mazzy, pick up the phone and talk to me right now.”
The microwave beeps again but they still aren’t done. I check with a chopstick.
“Mazeline, if you don’t pick up the phone right now . . .”
I pick up the phone and say: “What?”
“I’m going to try to come home this weekend so we can sort things out.”
I don’t say anything.
“I have had several long discussions with Mrs. Peet.”
I bite my lip. I don’t know how to feel because I don’t want him to put her in a place.
Everything is fine.
I want to tell him that.
But then I also want to tell him he can come home. He should come home. We need him.
“Okay,” I finally say, and I take the marshmallows out anyway.
He’s quiet for awhile and I stir the marshmallows.
“Is everything okay?”
“What are you doing?”
“Making Peking duck for me and Mom.”
“Peking duck this time, huh?”
He sort of laughs.
He says: “Getting a little fancy these days, eh?”
“I’m serious, Dad. Mom said she wanted Peking duck so I’m making it.”
I eat some marshmallow but it’s too hot and I burn my tongue. I drop the phone and it hangs up.
Dad and Mom used to dance.
Late at night when we were supposed to be asleep.
Mom would throw back her head and laugh and Dad would pick her up.
“Stop it, Dave,” she’d say.
“What?” And he twirled her around and around.
“You’re going to hurt your back.”
“Well, I guess I should stop, then,” he’d say, and keep twirling and twirling and twirling.
I used to lay on the floor and watch them from the hallway.
Watch them laugh.
I’d lay there until maybe Dad saw me and he’d say, “Well, looks like someone is in big old trouble,” and I’d scream “No!”
and he’d put Mom on the couch, and her face. I can see her face.
I’d start down the hall but he’d catch me. He always caught me and then it was me laughing and twirling and everything was
how it was supposed to be.
My mom used to love my dad and my dad used to love my mom.
And they both used to love me.
He went for a one-week audition for ESPN 360. One week became forever.
Lisa comes by and she has four big bags of groceries.
“My dad’s coming home for the weekend,” I say.
“I know,” she says. And she starts emptying milk and bread and everything we haven’t had for a long long time.
“He called you?”
She doesn’t answer but instead pulls out a box of cookies.
“Why so much stuff?”
Another box of cookies and a roasted chicken.
She still doesn’t answer and she’s slamming things down on the counter.
When she finally has everything out, I say, “Aren’t some things for you and José and the kids?”
“No,” she says, and looks at me with bad eyes. “I never take things home for José and the kids.”
“Okay,” I say, and I get it.
And she’s still looking at me, her round chin shaking like she might cry or murder.
“Okay,” I say.
“I’ll be back next week,” she says, and she leaves.
Lisa is usually nice to me.
I wonder what Dad said. I wonder how Dad thinks he can fix things. He just messes things up even though we do have Soft Batch
Lisa didn’t buy any oranges.
But she did buy kiwis.
But a kiwi is the wrong size. In the mirror it looks pokey. Or too round. I even try it with a shirt over it but the fuzz
makes me itch.
ERE IS A DRAWING OF WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE
: pencil on paper
She also bought a cantaloupe.
I don’t try it.
I try not to think about her.
I might mow the lawn for when Dad gets here. I also should clean up the art room.
But I don’t think I will.
Y ART ROOM
: paper on paper
Colby says, “You went to yoga?”
He’s on his bike and he’s weaving between things like a broom, a football helmet, and three Tootsie Rolls.
I’m sitting in the sprinklers.