Maybe it wasn’t happenstance. People are not strangers to the circumstances. She did not just happen to be chilled, frozen there in a coarsening shell of shame and fear. Words and phrases must have led up to that moment. Covenants bound and agreements broken.
Corinna hunted girls before she hated them. She thirsted for breast milk with vampiric lust. She prodded her person into the hearts and skins of others, canned her cries to bestow onto girls with a mothering instinct and ambition. She whined as hungry animals do, crossed and caught in forest fires of man’s making. It was mother she wanted, and mother she would mold. In the dusky haze of her child’s shadow, she smacked those instincts like soft playdough, anxious to shape it before it dried. There was no vision there, but a feeling. And though she knew nothing of what broiled within her, it reached a crescendo, a climax of heat and anger.
As that Sunday wrinkled into dusk, she felt the edges of her curling in on themselves. The bricks of that memory lay in a scatter of ash and mortar. All rhyme and sense had been stripped of the day’s events, discernable patterns dismembered into scrawling lines like the wake of a young child’s handwriting. What Corinna did know was that her mother seemed to have melted and burst into gaseous fumes, like the slowing breath of the hangovers that she fed on Sundays much like this one. Once there had been a woman, and now were tumbleweeds of tangled hair and spray and spatter of bile as varied as the blots of a Pollock painting. Before, were there shadows of palm prints on the walls? Small scraps of skin and hair tethered to the smoky fibers of the futon? And now, was it the same house as it had been before? Or had property turned to relic, silt to stone, home to museum?
Mothers did many dark and gruesome things but die they did not. There had to be a plot twist, a resurrection of the narrative. This particular hero’s journey had not reached its denouement. There was consideration of action, pending echoes of emotion, martyrdom as an appealing alternative.
As it were, she didn’t have one choice over another. Girls did things out of desperation, and women did things out of sacrifice. She was still a girl, sometimes a woman, mostly her father’s daughter.
“Coal for Christmas, problem child.”
He broke the bottles into the sink and blamed his cuts on her clumsiness.
Camille Louise teaches English to high school students in New Orleans! She is a creative writer and poet as well! Be sure to check out her site (where this story was first published on August 10, 2018!)