Our mother drives us to the home where she was raised. It has fallen, mostly: the roof is torn so its beams are all the vultures see as they glide in figure eights, which my sister says means infinity. The porch sinks into a patch where tomatoes grew, but what remains is a pile of children’s toys and bikes with rusted fenders and plywood ripped from the walls with nails bent like the backs of old men. It looks as if a storm blew through, but there was no storm. No tornado or hurricane—no, nothing like that. When our mother left this place, to live with a man she no longer knows, her parents begged her to stay. But she went, to live in canyons and rivers, in rolling fields the farmers threshed at dawn. She buried her hands in soil, covered her face in dirt, and howled at tractor trailers illuminating the sky. She says, “There is no story here,” when we ask her what she remembers. Above us, the vultures glide. My sister repeats, “Infinity,” and a teapot sings from inside. Our mother scales the porch, enters the kitchen. The stove is on, and her mother is standing there in her bathrobe. We have never met her. “Claudette?” she asks. Sun shines through the open beams. It lightens our mother’s hair, her skin. She sits at the only table, among the pile of rubble. There are no walls dividing rooms, no floors but stacks of wood, no home except for what she remembers. Her father opens the back door, kisses our mother’s head. Grease stains line his arms, his shirt. He sits with her at the table and reads the paper. The house smells of butter and syrup, even from out here. Our mother’s mother joins them, smiles at us through the wall. They reach for their forks, their napkins, and eat.
MATT BARRETT — Matt holds an MFA in Fiction from UNC-Greensboro and his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Sun Magazine, Best Microfiction 2022, The Baltimore Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Forge, Contrary, trampset, and River Teeth, among others. He teaches creative writing at Gettysburg College and recently completed a YA novel.
Art by JACQUELINE STAIKOS — Jacqueline is a largely self taught contemporary artist living in Quinte West, Ontario. She has exhibited her work in several Ontario galleries including shows in Toronto, Kingston and in New York City. Her creative process involves working with inks, acrylics, oils and mixed media. She is currently working out of her home studio in Trenton, Ontario. More of her art can be viewed on her website, jstaikos.org or on Instagram as jstaikosart.