Michelle Reale

And She Flew

Jesus hangs on the cross right over the marital bed, blessing all things great and small. The mother, brow furrowed, sits in the hard chair, worrying her hands, intermittently reaching out to her children who breeze in and out of the room. Her youngest son, with his arms outstretched, like a bird, is doing the sway and the dip, while hooting like an owl. Stop, she tells him, and tries to laugh like she has seen the women on television who are never exasperated with their children, never feel lonely, never feel a shadow of a former self: brighter, stronger, saner. Those mothers never had to leave their country. They never had to raise their children in another language and hide the shame, like something dirty, of not being able to understand them.

The daughter sits at the mother’s feet, rubs her eyes and tugs on the mother’s arm. She moans with a mouth full of sad boredom. The mother looks at the soft pink insides of her daughter’s mouth, the small teeth, and the soft tongue and feels a desperate ache at the vulnerability that is pressing all around. No, no she tells the daughter. Not now. Let mother sit for a bit. Angry crying, but the mother is impassive as only she can be. The older son grabs the younger boy and tells him to settle. Mother doesn’t feel well. Your flying is making her dizzy. And the mother thinks, no, that’s not it. Misunderstood again.

The mother stares at her big, strong son, who in reality is still a boy, only he’s older than the others. The light in the room goes bright and dark, by turns, as clouds move with sinister purpose in front of the sun. The mother feels as though she is caught in a kaleidoscope and suddenly comes alive. She revels in the heady feeling. A soft flutter fills the room. The children begin to scream. The bat does the sway and dip around the room as if anointing one and all, God’s own emissary. The mother can hear the older son gather the children and is pleased at his excitement. Finally, she thinks, a sign has come: all will be well now.

The older son swats at the bat with a broom, but the bat flies with ease, high and then low. Jesus hangs on his cross and watches. One by one the children leave the room. Dinner will be set for them somewhere. The mother remains. Dark settles into the room now. The sounds of wings beating feverishly and breaths taken short and quick fill the room. The moans are silenced. The bat speaks to the mother in the only language she can understand, every word filled with meaning.

In the morning, so many will ask was she ill, how long had she been unhappy, was she more afraid than usual? The older son will tell them, in all honesty, that she was the happiest, in that afternoon, than he’d ever seen her. The daughter, purplish circles under her eyes, will moan with no sound. Her brother, wings carefully tucked inside, will only be able to dream of his next flight, though the open window will beckon to him for a long, long time.


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