Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The following is from a work in progress by Fiona Clifford
[From April 1-24] It was a stifling weekend with Wren - full of incessant, drizzling rain; stale air, the lingering smell of fried bacon from breakfast; and the sensed agitation of the neighbors, also cooped up in their constricted apartment worlds.
"Bored, bored, bored," Wren muttered to herself, pacing the living room's threadbare carpet. Then, unexpectedly lunging at Laura on the couch and digging her fingers into her mother's thighs, she shouted "I'M BORED" in Laura's face.
Startled by the wild flash in her daughter's eyes, Laura pressed back into the couch cushions.
Wren released her grip, retreated a few steps. Flapping her arms against the sides of her own legs, she twirled in lopsided circles before collapsing on the floor with an exasperated sigh.
Trying to act normal, Laura rose from the couch. Heart skittering, she headed to the hallway closet to see if there were any forgotten board games that might occupy Wren.
Fraying towels, ill-fitting spare sheets waited in the dust and dark. At the bottom of it all, a lopsided pile of puzzles and games teetered. Laura picked a coloring book from the top of the heap. Examining the forgotten cartoon characters splashed across the cover, she wondered if coloring was too childish for a nine year old. Hovering just inside the closet door, she tried to predict Wren's reaction.
Wren accepted the offering and settled on the living room floor. Laura stood awkwardly above her daughter for a moment, unsure what to do next. There was a stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen, but working at the sink - with the blank, windowless wall in front of her, windows full of rain at her back - required more effort than she could muster.
She sank back into the couch, trying to shake off the fog that had settled around her mind.
Stretched out on her stomach, legs bent, Wren absentmindedly swished her feet through the air like windshield wipers. Back and forth. Back and forth. The yellow and red colored pencils broke free from the carton, rolled to the edge of the coloring book. Without taking her eyes off the page, Wren dropped the pencil in her hand and picked up the red. The pencil box rattled.
Laura watched Wren place the tip of the pencil in the center of a cartoon bunny's nose, then start coloring. Wren gripped the pencil in a fist, bore down hard. Laura waited for the tip to snap off.
Wren quickly filled in the bunny nose, then continued outside the lines, moving across the animal’s face. Scratch, scratch, scratch. The pencil rasped across the paper. As Wren dragged the color in jagged scribbles, the rasping filled Laura’s ears like insect wings rubbing together. The sound joined by bursts of rain blowing against the windows, exploding into dribbling splatters.
Clamping her hands over her ears, Laura nervously tracked the uneven lines of red traveling across the bunny’s face like a slow flood of blood. Bright and harsh against the crisp white paper. Flashes of finding Fred in that bath tub. Uneven splotches of blood against the tile.
What would happen when Wren’s pencil scratched over the bunny’s eyes? Laura couldn’t stand to see those eyes colored red. She had to get out.
“Let’s go!” she blurted out, bolting up from the couch. Hands still covering her ears.