And then what?

It becomes a story that I don’t understand again.

I wish I could understand, said the boy.

I know. Me too.


When mum left the room and slammed the door I didn’t hear any whispers this time. I could smell the bad drink coming under the doorway though, and I know that she guzzling from her bottle. In the quiet of the night I could hear a steady flow of gulps. Then I heard the tiny crunches of mum gnashing her teeth on the bad pills. She guzzled and chewed and collapsed, and then mum was snoring. I was afraid she might not wake up, but I was even more afraid to leave the room. I knew that mum would be even more cross if I saw her that way. I saw her like that once-sprawled out on her floor, her clothes off, spit dripping down her chin, her chest moving up and down, slowly. A cracked picture frame sat next to her hands. The frame that told the story of the bad day. I tucked it under her arm and slid a pillow under her head, and the pillow was soft and warm. It wasn’t like my cold blankets. Mum never talked about that night, but she knew it was me and because she never talked about it I knew she was so angry that I had seen her that way. This time I just sat in the dark and tried to sleep. And then it was suddenly so cold again.


The boy nudged the girl’s hat and tried to place his hand over hers, but it just passed through it and she looked up sharply, suddenly, as if she were angry that he tried such a thing. She titled the hat back over her eyes and looked down at the pond at the swirling myst, which seemed to be moving faster around the stillness of the pond. The migration of vapors drifted out of the shadows, one by one. Tall ones and short ones and thin ones and round ones, all with blank eyes and blank faces, and they all dipped their feet in the pond too and just sat and looked at it. They should have been moving about, slowly pushing through the infinite horizon of shad-ows, but they had stopped. Then, one by one, their eyes raised, in unison, and looked at the girl. They placed their hands over their knees and looked intently at the girl and the boy. One by one, the vapors began to mutter, but their words were soft and they overlapped and no sense could be made of it, and the sounds seemed to make the myst of the pond move faster and faster. Beneath the myst the pond did something that it had never done before; it sparkled—tiny, dot like flecks, like the thing the myth makers called light. And their muttering grew louder and the girl lifted her head and removed her tattered top hat. Her hair was matted and thin and dry, and the vapors whispered louder and louder, and at once she and the boy knew what they were saying. It was one word. So soft, and now, so clear.


I don’t remember falling asleep, but I must’ve. Mum shook me awake and spoke into my ear. I could smell whiskey on her breath. I didn’t like that smell much. Not at all. Behind her were three men, dressed in grey suits and white shirts and skinny black ties. They had suitcases and some strange metal devices, things like that looked like small models of the planets that looked like they would spin in quick circles. They wore sunglasses, which was silly because they didn’t need them. I leaped up and yelped. Mum grabbed my shoulders. Hush, she said. I heard about these men on the television. They’re going to poke around your room a bit, and then show that

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