. green things rising . excerpt of a novel-in-progress .
She was a wolf as mothers go. A wolf who devoured her pups. A wolf who eyed her pups as they neared new trails, new pitfalls, new scents.
My mother simultaneously fed me and called me names for wanting to eat. She badgered me if I did not eat. She looked at herself and looked at me, my burgeoning female body mirroring hers. She told me she did not like me and laughed at my body, calling my blossoming curves too fat, too disgusting. She pinched my hips, my ass, my breasts, comparing them to her own. She would not feed me anymore, when I lost the baby fat, she would eye me like an old hawk, eye the attention I received from men.
My mother comes to me, hovers silently above me, a cat taking a newborn's breath. She stares into me, vacant eyes with promises of love, she inhales my exhale, she exhales so there was no more air. She stands still and waits to smother me.
My mother likes meat. She eats what the Germans call Fleisch Salat - roughly translated: flesh salad. She would return home, pop newly-acquired penile wursts into pots of boiling water, and welcome the family to feast.
I am walking along a beach. It is the island of Oahu. Honolulu lines the coast, the metal teeth of skyscrapers glistening, hotels cubing the sky, creating pockets where the clouds might have been. I walk into a hotel, take the elevator to my room. In the room is a trap door. On the floor is a rug that hides it. I kick the rug away so it is a crumpled, sleeping animal. My mother appears from the bellows of the floor, she opens the trap door. She smiles at me and hisses. Two teeth are long. They hang at opposite sides of her mouth.
My father is a shade. He comes and he goes. He walks through the shadows. We barely notice him leaving. When I could, I'd hug his neck and sniff at his foul coffee-breath and kiss his cheek before watching him go. He often came home after I was asleep, and was rarely up before I left for school. He hung around, on the weekends, like a thin veneer rag, a worn cotton shirt draped over the living room couch, eyes vacant and round to the television. The television is his god.
Too many memories of my mother, her teeth bare, her mouth fanged wild and rampaging at my father, a dead cotton shirt, a wisp of parchment ready to blow away in the wind. She is yelling because he has not given her love, he has not unmasked himself, he has hidden his heart in a secret box in the closet, too high for any of us to reach. But really she is yelling because she can, because she is strung like an animal, she is a fierce cat from the jungle and he has forgotten everything. He has drunk from the river Lethe and now his eyes have sunk into the hollow of his head. He has forgotten all. And she is an animal, waiting to pounce on anything that moves, anything at all, but he does not move. He is is a shirt, a blanket on the couch.
He goes where he is told. He does what he is told. He hangs his shirt up, he hangs his coat up in the closet when he comes home from work. Mutti throws her coat against the kitchen chair, the hallway steps. She throws her coat anywhere. She forgets where she puts it the next day, uproaring the house, telling us to hunt for her coat.
My brothers and I are the little mice my mother loves to play with. My father has ceased to be her mouse. He has long since learned that if he makes no noise, if he's motionless, no cat would sniff him out and eye him.
has eyes in the back of her head. She has what her mother calls an eagle eye,
a hawk-eye, an inherited trait. While her back is completely turned and she
is nicking off the ends of green beans or chopping onions, I gingerly take
the steak bits from my plate, bits I have chewed so thoroughly in my mouth,
that they have become tiny pieces of flavorless jerky. I put them in my napkin,
conceal them under the rim of my plate, bury them in the wedges of the vinyl
chair. I do not like meat. But my mother notices without looking at me. "Stop
hiding your food. Eat your steak."
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