Witnesses by Jan Stinchcomb

By the time Mom has disappeared under the sheets, surrendering to an eighties’ playlist heavy on Depeche Mode and Talking Heads, it is too late to reel her back. She has seen everything, all the tragic secrets of time and microbiology. As she rolls off the mattress and onto the dusty floor, we look through her phone and the old photo albums. We brave miles of bookshelves in search of the life she had before us. I hold up a Gumby doll, a cracked CD case, a tinkling charm necklace. A dinosaur-shaped chalkboard.

You’re missing the point, she tells me. It’s like you haven’t heard a word I’ve said, but you were there! You lived through everything.

We stare at her in pity. She’s lost it, if she ever really had it, and she won’t stop.

Don’t you remember when he came by that night and told me he loved me? Did he say it in French or Spanish?

We’re baffled.

What about when she finally kissed me on the mouth? It was right before sunrise, the bluest hour.

We can’t look at her.

And that letter? The one where they gave me what I wanted and complimented me? They made it sound like I was guaranteed a lifetime of happiness.

Do you want me to find that letter for you, Mom? Where would it be?

She rises from the floor and grabs my arms, hard. Listen to me, she says. A woman is born with all her eggs. All the witnesses she will ever have. You were there from the beginning, even before your father. You were there for all the trouble, all the good. You have no right to forget.

Helpless, I sift through a plastic milk crate full of cassette tapes. I glance over at a pile of old Rolling Stones. Think about searching YouTube. Frightened, my siblings escape one by one, wincing at the eggshells stuck to their feet.

JAN STINCHCOMB — Jan is the author of The Kelping (Unnerving), The Blood Trail (Red Bird Chapbooks) and Find the Girl (Main Street Rag). Her stories have recently appeared in Atticus Review, Ligeia Magazine and Fractured Lit. A Pushcart nominee, she is featured in Best Microfiction 2020 and The Best Small Fictions 2018. She lives in Southern California with her family. Find her at janstinchcomb.com or on Twitter @janstinchcomb

Art by AARON BURCH — Aaron is the author of the memoir/literary analysis Stephen King’s The Body; the short story collection, Backswing; and the novella, How to Predict the Weather. He is the Founding Editor of Hobart and HAD. His first novel, YEAR OF THE BUFFALO, will be released in 2022. Find him online at www.aaronburch.net or on Twitter @Aaron_Burch.