Friday, March 21, 2014


It should be easy.
All I have to do is stand at the corner of Park and Hill streets at precisely 3:13pm. Count to fifteen and then take two steps sideways to my left and stick my foot out just a little too far. Then she will come and…everything will be okay again.
I go over the directions once more even though there aren’t many and even though I’ve already memorized them. They’re written on the back of a flowery card with the words “Thanks so much for volunteering for our annual bake sale. Best Wishes, Mirriam” scrawled on the inside along with the five letters that still make my heart squeeze and my mouth go dry. Linda. My mother’s name. I stare at it, unable to look away, unable to turn over the card and get to the directions so I can reassure myself one more time that I have the next hour plotted out right. If I succeed seeing those letters won’t bother me anymore.
“Where you going?” Lissie asks from her spot on the carpet where she is sprawled out with her paper and colors making careful drawings of our house and everyone who lives in it. Three. There are three stick figures now where there were once four. I want to crumple up the crude sketches and throw them into the fireplace. But it’s too hot for a fire and I’d only set Lissie off—make her howl.
“For a walk,” I say and smile because soon her drawings will go back to normal. I’m gonna make sure.
I leave before she can beg me to go too. The woods are quiet this time of day, waiting I think for me to plunge into them and towards the spot. I found it just three weeks ago. Not on purpose. I was trying to get out of the house and away from Lissie and Dad and the empty chair at the kitchen table that mom used to fill. I never much liked the woods, but on that day I was desperate to keep from howling myself and so I ran into them without hesitating.
I found the old shed about the time I was starting to get afraid that I was lost. It was right leaning—dangerously close to toppling over and half the roof was missing. Moss covered what was left. Even before I opened its rotted out door I could feel something…different about it. Not wrong, just special. The door opened smoothly, quietly like it was well oiled and used often. I peered inside. Huddled in the corner was a woman so large that she looked stuffed into the space. She was wearing an over-sized t shirt with a sexily posed Tinkerbell across the front and a pair of hiking boots. Her shorts were pulled tight across her thighs, the flesh so rippled with cellulite that I could feel myself staring even though I didn’t want to.
“Figured you might show up today,” she said, her mouth turning up into a grin that lacked teeth and turned her ancient in an instant. “Been waiting for you.”
I took a step back, sure that she was about to frisk me for spare change or food or something, but she just sat back…on a stool maybe? I couldn’t make it out under her considerable bulk but it had to be there or otherwise she was floating off the floor somehow.
“You get one chance to get it right you know. One. So listen good, boy. I can send you back to save her. For one hour you can try, but then it’s over and whatever happens is for good.”
I didn’t believe her. How could I? She was going on and on about how I could stop my mom from dying. How I just needed to get her out of the way of the car and everything would change. The shed could get me back. All I had to do was go and listen to her instructions.
She showed me first. Took my hand and pulled me into the dark corner opposite her where the shadows were thick. A minute later we were standing on the low hill of the cemetery where we buried my mother, watching the men cover her coffin up with dirt. I could hear the thud of every shovelful of dirt. I could smell the sickening scent of all those flowers lined up by her stone. Her name was crisp and shiny black in the sunlight. Linda Marie Thompkins, beloved wife and mother. My head was reeling. I felt like somehow the world had been picked up and shaken like a snow globe, time scattering around like snowflakes, falling in random patterns. I swayed a little on my feet. I couldn’t help it.
“Whatever time/memory you’re thinking about when you step “through” that’s where you end up,” she said, her plump hand wrapping around mine, too soft to be comforting, too tight around mine for me to pull away.
By the time we were back in the shed I believed and what’s more, I began to prepare.
I open the door to the shed, expecting her to be there like before, but it’s empty instead. For a moment I am not sure what to do, but then I start staring at the corner of the room and I can’t help myself, I’m walking into it, thinking hard about my mother and that corner and the truck. I wasn’t there, but I saw the phone footage from one of the witnesses, posted on Youtube hours afterwards, surreal and horrible and viewed more times than I can stomach to count. It isn’t hard to conjure the memory. I haven’t been able to escape it for months.
In an instant it is afternoon and the sun is bright and hot and baking the sidewalk so that the heat rises off of it in waves. People jostle around me, eager to get past. I shake my head and try to clear the dizzy sick that envelopes me. I turn and there she is. Hair swept up in a haphazard bun, her purse swinging low across her side as she walks purposely towards the intersection. Mom. I want to call out to her, to rush at her, snatch her up and hold her close until I hear the truck rumble pass, but I don’t. The woman was very clear. I couldn’t talk to her, I could only waylay her a little. I turn so that she can’t see me, so that I am facing the intersection too. I glance at my watch. 3:13. I begin to count. One, two, three….
When I get to fifteen I take my two steps and I feel her foot catch on my heel, hear her take in a gulp of air as she loses her balance and begins to fall. My heart practically flies out of my chest, I am soaring, I am light as air. She will be there when I get back. Lissie’s drawings will be complete. Everything will be better. Right.
As I turn, prepare to leave my mom sprawled on the sidewalk so she never knows that I was here, I catch the eye of a little boy. He’s staring up at me, his eyes wide, his mouth open slightly in a smile because he must’ve seen my mom fall and thought it looked funny. In his hand is a piece of paper, a drawing very much like Lissie’s. He lets it go without thinking and it flies out into the intersection and a moment later so does he, arm outstretched to catch it. There is a squeal of tires and then the bark of rubber on blacktop and then the sickening sound of screaming.

The drawing blows back out of the street as the boy disappears under the truck. I watch it flutter down towards the sidewalk because I can’t look out into the street, can’t see what just happened, what I just caused to happen. The paper slides to a stop, resting face up on my sneakers, so that all I can see is the house and four stick figures crayoned across it.

Story by: Amy Christine Parker
Image courtesy of Graur Codrin/

1 comment:

  1. Wowza, didn't see that ending coming. I like how you and Krystalyn have written pieces this year so far about the costs of wanting to help others. Really good.