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
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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