Stream of Consciousness Narration
Once again she fingered the photograph and took it up from off the leather topped
mahogany desk and stared.
There, right there, in those hazel eyes, the thing that both terrified and baffled
her to the core was boldly etched on her daughter’s face.
Its very existence and the knowledge of it had cut into her so deeply that she had taken
to her bed with hives and other generalized maladies.
She began calling in sick and missing days from work so much so that she almost lost
her pension as well as her mind.
Night after night, she would lay across from her husband’s sound snoring and
struggle to name that thing that she saw in her Peg’s eyes.
It was no used asking him about it because the thing was only there for her.
So tired and confused at what she alone saw that at night she rocked,
sighed and moaned in frustrated defeat.
Then at last years’ Thanksgiving Day dinner which she hosted every year,
she’d pulled a reluctant Peggy from the other relatives and snapped the picture
that she now held.
She somehow knew that she might not get another opportunity to see her daughter in
person so she had grabbed the camera and Peggy just before serving the turkey.
Months passed or what what seemed like a lifetime ago while she was at work,
Peggy moved her things out of the house and into her own place somewhere away from her.
She hadn’t bothered to leave a note or a key or a forwarding address, she just
vanished from their life.
Then like some strange dream or aberration, Peg opened the door and stepped back
into their lives,and living room on Thanksgiving Day.
She’d simply put her old key in the door, said hello to all the shunned relatives
like nothing had happened or no time at all had elapsed, sat down on the couch,
munched on peanuts and trail mix from off the buffet counter trays and asked
how everyone was doing.
Witnessing Peggy’s performance for the kindred crowd while longing to join in
she instead told herself that there were too many things to do and multitudes of
mouths to feed, so she listened for her daughter’s voice from the safety of the
kitchen as she basted the turkey and set the cranberry sauce in a glass bowl.
For the tenth thousandth time, she wondered where the error or fault had occurred
which had overtaken her daughter or what or who had caused these caustic tremors
She has been determined to find and to root out the villain but that mystery remained
locked within Peg’s skin which she knew inch for inch but no longer could touch
or fathom what lay beneath it.
There it was, in the picture that she now handled behind Peggy’s smile.
The malignant rage that was just below the surface.
It was there, hidden from others but not from her mothering eyes like a scratch-off ticket,
the anger was below a thin layer of makeup.
She left the kitchen door ajar so that she could listen to the conversation in the living room.
Then when all was ready and everyone stood around the turkey each giving thanks and speaking
out a blessing of gratitude.
Peggy dropped a dirty bomb with,” Nobody ever did anything for me so I’ll pass!”
Shunned, she felt her face flush and lowered her head in disbelief at Peggy’s thoughtlessness.
Exasperated sighing and Peg’s anger towards her had driven her to hysterics and laughing fits.
Time and time in numbers too high to tell, she’d racked her soul and memory with,
“What did I do?”
“Where had this crazy anger come from and who had taught her this evil hostility?”
Before bed she’d confess and plead, “Lord, You know that hate never entered my mind!”
“Can a child be born with a Satanic bent?”
But those ideas and questions were quickly vanqished for fear thats she might end up on
television like the others mothers who claimed that their child was demon possessed.
Now as she sat looking at her daughter’s picture, she remembered the hard pregnancy.
Laughing to herself, she sighed in remembrance of how Peggy used to kick and jab her
ribs so badly that it made her catch her breath.
Of course, Peg was premature and breeched at that.
She thought, maybe Peg was right when she called me stupid.
She hadn’t even known that she was pregnant until the night that my mother took her
to the hospital in an ambulance for stomach cramps.
“Oh God” her mother was so ashamed and embarrassed.
“What would the neighbors think?” was all she repeated over and over again
as she sobbed fixing the white bed sheets.
She wouldn’t look at her but pulled those sheets so tight around her swollen
belly that it felt like a straight jacket of scathing, starchy pain.
She turned her own face away from her Mom’s rejection.
She smiled as she thought about how little Peggy arrived and the doctors didn’t
have to slap her becuase she started bellowing the moment the air touched her.
It was like she wanted to stay in her Mommy Hotel.
Her fingers and feet clenched ever so tightly and her wrinkled faced turned ruby red
so that you might have thought that tiny Peg had a gold mine deed in her stomach.
At home, the first night was pure hell.
She was exhausted and daddy didn’t know what to do to help since he had worn
himself out pacing.
When finally they had gotten Peggy settled in her room and off to sleep, they too
fell into bed.
Turning off lights and locking up was the only thing on their minds but as soon
as their heads hit the pillows, Peggy let out a scream that frightened the darkness.
Rushing and trumbling into her room at 12 midnight, there she was twiching and straining
her body into convulsions.
When daddy picked her up, she was a stiff, skin board.
She didn’t know what to do with her screaming and bucking, so.
Granted she was young but she loved her child with everything she had.
Then when she went to feed her sometimes she’d clamp down on my nipple like she had lockjaw
as if she wanted to tear it off with her her angry, wanting lips.
As a teen, she grew even more angry and distant.
She’d lament within ear-shot,” No one loves me or no one does anything for me!”
She would go over and try to comfort her with a kiss, a hug or a soft word
but Peg wouldn’t have any of that.
Rebuked and scorned, she withdrew and stood in the background of Peggy’s life like a
wooden sentinel while her mother’s heart wounded, bleeding and scarred, atrophied.
more by DEBRA BISHOP
Photograph by Luigi Morante