Snapshot

She stared out the window.  The view from the living room was gray and soggy.  Drops of rainwater clung to tree leaves like kindergarteners afraid to leave their mothers.  She watched a white car skid down the road, one of those new kinds that use batteries or something.  She didn’t care.  Not one bit, she reminded herself.  She swallowed a sip of black coffee.  It was acrid and bold, and it reminded her of being alive.  She would not give in to creamer.  Creamer was for people who had given up, waved the white flag of dairy.

A ripping sound interrupted her reverie, accompanied by a distant pounding.  She wondered for a moment if it might be the sound of her stomach, its pink veil rending from the inside.  It roiled these days, her stomach, off and on again, and she sometimes wondered if permanent damage was happening somewhere beyond her bellybutton.  She pulled her reluctant eyes off the damp trees to see the puppy destroying a single black sock.  A sock that would never have a mate now.  She made her mind laugh as she hummed ‘Taps’ soundlessly.

The pounding, as it so often happened, came from upstairs where her children made things.  Or broke them.  She loved those kids, and she loved their projects, in theory.  The way someone might love capitalism or public transit.  She chose not to view their upstairs doings with the magnifying glass of responsible motherhood.  She preferred to see them, or rather hear them, from downstairs, in the land of laissez-faire.  She’d learned that sometimes sane mothers look at their progeny through the wrong end of a telescope.  She was doing that now.

Her stomach lurched, reminding her that coffee doesn’t make a good breakfast on its own.  Not her kind of coffee anyway.  She rubbed her belly and imagined a baby.  It had been eight years since her youngest had shot into the world, squalling like a pink kitten.  She squinted and tried to remember those waves of morning sickness from her fertile 20’s, the flutter-kicks, and taut waistbands.  She didn’t really want those days back, except for when she did.  Now her belly germinated an embryo of anxiety.  Her morning sickness was acid reflux, and she knew she was too young and too old for all of this.

The puppy sniffed the blinds on the back door.  She wanted a treat, a noxious combination of kibble and peanut butter designed to entertain her for ten precious minutes.  If the woman were pregnant, and she wasn’t, the very idea of Peanut Butter Kibble would have sent her streaking to the bathroom.  Remember those days when her oldest, a toddler, wordlessly stood by the toilet and watched as she retched with passion?  She’d been pregnant with the last baby, and her other children weren’t sure they liked what “your little sister” was doing to Mommy.

The rain had stopped.  The sun wasn’t out, exactly, but it wasn’t in either.  The yard had greened suddenly.  The road, silver with water, was beginning to look gray and safe again.  A red car ambled across her view, black smoke trailing out its tailpipe.

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