She rushed along a lightening illuminated path. Mud sucked one satin slipper off, the other she tossed away calling it useless, like she had the cooks whose roast meat was not bloody enough, their bread not crusty enough. Torrential tears fell. Rain streamed from her hair, her clothes, and the tip of her nose.
A man and his unruly mare pulled up, clods flying.
“Fool, do you know who I am,” she asked.
Eyebrow raised, he said, “A woman in need of dry clothes.” The lord carried her to his castle, grand as her father’s.
My only daughter, a kind one her. Didn’t she bake a cake, ripe with almond scent, to bring her grandmother? To visit my mother is arduous, more than one day’s journey. Should I caution her? Could my daughter understand if I warned her about the treacherous nature of the beast we women become by the light of the moon? And as fate would have it, the moon is full tonight.
I must trust my precious girl. I tell her, “Stay on the path, avoid strangers, clean yourself in the river along the way if you must. My love to Grandma.”
Blood. It was blood everywhere. Soaked into the cracks of the wooden floor, on the old lady’s nightgown, pouring out from the dead wolf’s throat. The carving knife and the young girl’s hand what held it dripped with the stuff. I thought she were cut, too. Like the wolf tore her open some way, I thought. But when I got to her, she were fine. Dazed, a murderous light in her eye, innocent no more.
I tucks them both in bed, gets a fire going, then sits down. The girl’s asleep. I tell her Grandma, “Let’s say I did it.”
A week after my mom was buried, my friend, Agnes, started to resemble her. At first, it was just the nose. Then the eyes, including a dramatic change from brown to blue. Agnes grew wrinkled and unreasonable. She started arguments. I ghosted her and mourned the loss of my best friend.
One day, I picked up Agnes’s photo and did a double take. She pixelated into my mother. Then the pixels reverted to the original. Mesmerized, I watched the picture magic from one to the other until I couldn’t tell them apart. I wish I could let my mother go.
The last postcard I sent to my mother came back labeled, “Attempted- Not Known.” My fault. I left off all but the G in Georgetown, Texas. No zip code. Maybe it was a premonition that stopped my hand. The date of return was the day she died.
“Love you,” is all I was trying to say. Would she even have heard the aide read the two words? She hadn’t responded to my daily postcards. Maybe the message was lost to her in the haze of last days, not in the post office where someone shrugged, unable to deliver the undeliverable.
I’ve always wanted to find a hidden passage behind a bookcase or though a trap door in the floor. Wonderland or Narnia. A priest hole would work. Maybe that’s why British mysteries hold such appeal for me. So when Rosie the Roomba mapped a passage from my study to the street, I was ecstatic, if confused. Was the opening hidden under the rug? Had we covered the exit to the street with a raised bed like we did the clean-out for the sewer?
My husband says the new room is a mapping error from Rosie getting stuck. I hope not.
I send my mother cards because she has trouble answering the phone. Today’s is a Hungarian landscape from World War II. It’s remarkably free of destruction and death, unlike what we see in war photos from the newspapers.
The place in Texas where she’s living resembles the card’s frontpiece. There’s a lake. There are houses. The hills are a dull green, shot through with bare soil. A year ago, when she hated where she was, my mother threatened to move to Czechoslovakia. Next to Hungary. Close to Ukraine. I’m glad she didn’t. Here, she imagines escape without confronting the reality.
Rosie is our new Roomba. She’s a little ADD. Childlike, each day a new adventure. She wanders off course though I’ve set a map and a schedule. On her trial run I followed like an anxious parent noticing the places she missed, wondering how to help.
Our little black dog was much more chill. He relaxed on the rug watching while I said, “I think you should move.” He thought her harmless until she ran into his foot. He made a reluctant retreat. But he came back, ears perked. He’s right to think that Rosie is no threat to him.