Every Friday at 8:00 a.m. Mom ducks into the Krispie Korner and stands perfectly still near the door, watching for me. I never show my face, no matter how much I want to run in there and hug her. I want to tell her I’m safe, I’m in love with a great, gentle guy, and one of these days we’ll move into our own house. We’re both working now. Mom hasn’t worked in years. She’s too sick.
No one would guess how crazy she is unless they tried talking to her. I’ve seen customers in the coffee shop speak to her, and seen her glare at them and pull her ratty, green cardigan tight around her like armor. The pills have made her fat, and the sweater is way too tight, but she always wears it, even in August.
I sent her a new sweater that would fit, same shade of green, but she hasn’t worn it. Maybe she was scared to open the package, even though I didn’t put my name on the return address, just had the store send it. She trusts no one, certainly not me. That’s why I sit in the diner on the opposite corner, eating bacon and eggs, watching her watch for me. I think she knows I’m here. She’s not stupid. She pays attention like a cat, sees every movement. She can smell a trap, especially if she thinks I’m the bait.
Every Wednesday I leave a message on her phone. She’s probably there, listening, but she never picks up. So I say the same thing, “Hi, Mom, it’s Dodie. I’d love to see you. Call me. Same number. We can have coffee at Krispie Korner on Friday. It’s up to you.”
She never calls. But she goes to the coffee shop, every time. One time I walked in right behind her.
She glared at me, pulled that awful sweater tight and ran out, right into the street. Good thing the driver of that pickup had quick reflexes. He was shaking because he actually knocked her down. He leaped out of the truck and tried to help her up, but she slapped his hands away.
“Jeez, lady, I’m sorry. I didn’t even see you coming.”
She staggered to her feet, and I put my arms around her. She jerked away and raised her hand to me. Her palms were red and scraped. Instead of hitting me, she backed away, stumbled, turned and bolted.
“Somebody call 911!” the driver yelled.
His truck, the driver’s side door hanging open, blocked one lane; he and I stood in the street, blocking the other. Cars honked, and a motorcycle cop came screaming around the corner. He cleared traffic, took down our names and numbers. When I told him Mom’s name, he sighed.
“We’ll find her,” he said.
Of course, they know her. They found her, and hauled her off to St. Mary’s. I had to go sign her in, but, once again, she was out in five days, wearing that same god damned sweater.
K. V. Douglass’s books include Red Goddess Poems; Bones in the Chimney (fiction); Green Rider, Thinking Horse (non-fiction); and Sostenuto, (poems). The Great Hunger (poems) is available from Plain View Press (2009). She is an associate editor for The Café Review.