Where has my mother gone?

Photo by Philipp Berndt

The following is a work of short fiction.

It is evening and my mother is missing.

I do not know where she is. Someone else is here in her stead, but it is not her.

I know my mother and this person is not her.

And this is not the first time this has happened.I don’t have a great memory. My mom says I’m a good boy a lot, but she gets disappointed when I forget things and I forget things a lot. But I know that every evening this week, around this time, my mother has gone missing and someone else takes over the household.

It’s just my mother and me here. And I love her dearly.

She’s my whole world.

When she leaves for the day, I miss her terribly; but I know she’s off doing things that are important.

They must be important because when she comes home, she looks so tired and broken. I try to be excited and happy and joyous when she comes home, every single time, but lately, she rarely seems to care when I want to tell her things.

I want to tell her about the things I see out the window; the fluttering of robins in the air as they sing the songs of spring; the way that the seeds from dandelions swim in updrafts of wind; the scary-looking man with the lawnmower who frightens me away every time his loud machine rips to life.

But she doesn’t seem to care for my stories anymore.

She feeds me a meal in the morning and I eat it happily, devouring it as best I can, as quickly as I can. Although she disappears in the evenings, she reappears in the mornings while I slept.

She seems tired now, like every day is just another difficult ordeal just to survive through.

I only get my one meal in the morning. And when she’s gone, the rest of the day I’m hungry. I can reach the water alright, so I usually don’t get thirsty.

But tonight, she’s gone. My mother is missing and I am so hungry and this new person is here.This new person is not my mother.

This new person does not have the light touch of my mother’s steps. She stumbles around heavily, kicking me away if I get too close to her.

This new person does not have the songstress voice of my mother. When she laughs, it sounds like the lawnmower in the mornings. It has none of my mother’s joy in it, even though it is laughter.

This new person does not care for me the way my mother does. She doesn’t hold me or put my favourite bandana on, or kiss my forehead when I snuggle up to her.

I do not like this person. And tonight, she is not feeding me.

This stranger sometimes will feed me if I whine and beg loudly enough, but other times I will be shoved away forcibly. I hate this feeling; this feeling as if my just being there is of some sort of terrible inconvenience to this stranger. But it is my house. At least, it is my mother’s house and I belong here. The stranger does not.

She orders herself food. It smells greasy and oversalted. She devours it hungrily and it splatters across her blouse as she does so. She washes it down with what looks like juice in a fancy glass.

When she is done, she lays on the couch and watches television. I am ignored.

I am so hungry and although the food has none of the touch of my mother to it, I sneak to the kitchen.

I am as quiet as I can be, but I am not tall enough to reach the food on the counter.I stand up as high as I possibly can. I reach as far as I am able. Every muscle is stretching to its limit. I am at my limit.

I pull on the food and it splatters to the ground with a crash; sauce and rice and pieces of meat go flying. I run away.

I run away to my mother’s room. I hide there, my tail between my legs. I wish my mother was here. She would scold me, yes, but this stranger? I do not know what she will do.

The stranger follows me into the room and shouts. She screams. She kicks at me. I cry out without words.

I am too small. Even if I could hurt her, I wouldn’t. That’s not who I am. That’s not who my mother trained me to be.

The stranger leaves and I crawl into my mother’s bed. She sometimes lets me sleep at the foot of it, and I curl up there, whining. My tail is still tucked underneath me.

The stranger comes in later. I don’t know how much later. She smells of wine and whiskey.

She forces me off the bed and slams the door behind her. I trot to my own bed on the floor and roll up there.I stare at the empty bottles on the table. They seemed to have multiplied in the week.

When the morning comes, my mother comes out of the bedroom. The stranger must have left and she must have arrived sometime while I was asleep. She strokes my head and pours food into my bowl. She clears the bottles from the table.

She is here now. I feel safer.

But I am so scared for when that stranger arrives in the evening, clutching those bottles in big, brown paper bags.

That stranger might look like my mother; she might smell like my mother, and she might taste like my mother. But I do not know her and I do not love her.

My mother kisses me before she leaves and I take my post looking out the window.

How I wish things could be better than they are.