WHEN MUMMY VISITS • by Felicia Wulandari

When Mummy visits, she lets herself in. It doesn’t matter if he’s home or not. Mummy’s got a spare key. Noel initially didn’t have one. He didn’t have one specifically so that he could say, “No, Mum, I haven’t got any,” without feeling guilty. But Mummy insisted. She even went to the locksmith herself. That afternoon Noel came home to find three keys on the counter: one for him, one for her, and one for the potted plant particularly placed left to the door.

When Mummy visits, the house welcomes her. The rugs stop smelling and the dust bunnies disappear. The laundries get done and the dishes get washed. The house starts to sprout goodies too. Sometimes he’d find a freshly baked blueberry pie by the windowsill. Sometimes he’d even find a new jumper draped over the sofa, which is always a fine thing to have for upcoming winters. Also, a lot of things get fixed. Mummy’s a great fixer. She specializes in basic furniture and electronics. Sentient things are not her thing however, and Noel is rather miffed about that. Although, he does appreciate how the lamp in his study no longer blinks a hundred times before working properly.

When Mummy visits, Noel makes sure she steers clear from his bedroom. It’s where he keeps things she doesn’t like. Noel finds that easy to do now that Mummy doesn’t have the bedroom key, but he didn’t have as much luck with his old one. He couldn’t hide Little Archie, for example. Noel liked Archie because he always shared his Hot Wheels cars, but then Mummy heard Archie’s Daddy got into a really big trouble with the police so, “We don’t want to be friends with thieves now, do we?” There was no more Archie afterwards. No more Julie, and Hugh, and Willie. And then no more Rock ’n’ Roll. Noel doesn’t understand this one. He’s most upset about this one. He started listening when he was nine or so and it was alright at first. Then he would turn up the stereo to full blast on some days and it would be Freddie Mercury’s voice that came through. It would be Freddie saying that his Mummy just killed a man (or maybe there’s a comma in there, who knows? Noel never hears a comma and his Mummy must’ve not either). It would be Freddie shouting at his Mummy to let him go. One day, Noel came home from school to learn that his cassettes, a whole box of them, were gone. “They’re going to get you into drugs, Noel,” Mummy said, and that was the end of it, or so she thought.

When Mummy visits, Noel doesn’t want her in the kitchen. He knows she’ll ruin it like how she ruined their old one. It’s not the cooking disaster sort of ruin, which he welcomes anytime. It’s just that when he was a kid, he would spend a lot of time in the kitchen with Mummy, and sometimes the chairs and the plates let fly. They were always easy to dodge though. Even in her trance Mummy didn’t really want to hurt him. But the words – Oh, the words. Noel didn’t think words could bounce but they do. One day Mummy said something to the kitchen wall and the words bounced down to the linoleum floor and up to stab his eyes. On another, the words bounced up to the cupboard then down to punch his stomach. But there was this one time when Mummy said something really really bad. Noel couldn’t remember what she said exactly, only that this time the words did something different. The words closed on him. They blocked his hearing. They reddened his vision. They made his skin tingle, hot, like heated iron. And then somehow the words made him move, first his body, shooting across the room like a bullet, then his hands. They made his hands push Mummy. They made Mummy fall, then made her hit her head against the kitchen counter. They made the floor bleed, made the ambulance come, the social workers come. The words made him live with his aunt for a week. After Mummy came back, he also realized the words made her better, in a way. Noel tried to be positive about it, and he supposed so did Mummy.

When Mummy visits, she never rings. Why would she ring her own house? But some part of Noel always knows. That afternoon, that some part of him rises to occasionally prick him in the stomach. Noel makes a mental note to stop eating office food but otherwise keeps his foot steady on the gas.

When Mummy visits, there’s no car on the driveway. Mummy doesn’t drive. It’s a £20 taxi ride for every visit. So when Noel pulls up at his driveway, he doesn’t know. He turns off the radio, then turns off the engine, as usual. He gets out of his car, then locks it, as usual. Halfway up his pathway, he notices that his yard is wet. Noel knows it’s usually rainy here, but Mr. Willis’ side is completely dry. He also realizes that he can perfectly see his sofa and TV from where he’s standing, which means the curtains are open. Noel never leaves his curtains open. Noel doesn’t open his curtains, period. He doesn’t want his neighbors to go window-shopping at his house, so someone must’ve gone in and did it. And that’s when Mummy walks into the living room, into his window-sized line of vision.

Mummy looks up.

Noel raises his right hand. He waves.

Mummy’s face lights up. In a flash she rushes outside to welcome him. In the last three seconds he has alone, Noel does three things exactly. He steps up to his porch. He tucks in his shirt. As he hears the door click, Noel prepares one fine smile for his Mummy.

Felicia Wulandari was born and raised in Indonesia. She started writing in fourth grade and will probably continue to do so while she works her way to an undergraduate degree in the US.

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