Owen Duffy

Martin had on a tie and his mother licked her hand and wiped down his hair as we filed into Sunday school. Afterwards she drove us to his house to play, the radio off, Martin holding his painting of Moses. She was a thin woman with a black braid that fell to her waist, and it swung stiffly as she walked into their house. Martin stood there touching the large mole on his cheek. His eyes were very dark and his skin was very pale. He dragged his painting up the walkway, his dress socks bunched around his sneakers.

It was grey outside but the lights in the house were off. His mother had a headache, he said as we went up to his room, so we had to be quiet. She wasn't always sick. But this day she was. She was a ballet dancer, he said. She had a room in the house with mirrors and wooden floors and sometimes she stood in there looking at herself in strange poses.

When I picked up his Moses painting he lunged for it and I ran down the hallway. I went into a room across the way to hide. He chased after me, yelling in a hushed way for me to stop. But I was already in there. The shades were drawn. The room was pink and a crib stood in the corner.

"Don't," he said. He grabbed his painting. "We aren't allowed in here."

A wind chime hung by the window. There was a woven blanket and some books. There was a chair with an apple core beside it on a table. The apple was brown, and there was a dent in the seat cushion.

Martin pulled at my sleeve.

We went back to his room and he showed me his digital weather thermometer. It's very expensive, he whispered, lifting it from its case. We held it out the window. We stuck it in our pants. We squeezed our hands around it. Then he sat and played with a stuffed doll. Martin cradled it and I pretended not to look. Martin tucked it under the bed when he heard his mother coming. She stopped at the room across the way, went in and shut the door behind her.

Martin grabbed the thermometer from me and threw it out the window. I watched it bounce off the roof and shatter in the driveway. His dad had bought it for him in Japan. It had felt very expensive. I looked out the window at the glittering pieces on the driveway, then at Martin, patting down his hair.

Owen Duffy is the author of THE ARTICHOKE QUEEN, a novel.

Read his postcard.

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