Of course, the children still returned to have my mother’s cookies, to be petted about the head, but they never again came to hear her play the cello. To play with me—and my brother—in the open in our comfortable home, that Mother did not do either. Not since the incident. Sadly, the neighbors admired my mother’s technical skills—on that one occasion—then declined her future invitations. What had happened that night, shades drawn to our Ohio street as Mother played celestial music, my brother and I in our rooms? Though I couldn’t say it at the time—I didn’t know what to say when Mother cried in the kitchen—the neighbors were philistines. They did not know their Shostakovich from Oum Kalthoum, as Mother did.
Father was a digital parts salesman. He never once heard Mother play. He wasn’t the type to appreciate Music, he said. Music was always spoken of in a revered whisper in our house—because of Mother. Soon, Mother practiced only behind closed doors, sending out warm, arachnoid tones from her barricaded office. I imagined my brooding, faceless Mother as the oracle in the de Chirico painting.
Friends stopped coming. Breakfast dishes piled in the sink. A limousine came to take Father and he never returned after that.
Mother’s hair grew wild and she became strange—recklessly beautiful. I never sought advice from Mother—I, her daughter, her young pea. It seemed dangerous to do so. And so it was that one Sunday, when I returned from the mall, job application in hand, I found with utter astonishment that the house was abandoned. A screech of notes—violent, Schoenberg—came from Mother’s cello and the ventilation system. But I looked and Mother—she was gone.
Over the years I got such wonderful postcards.
HEATHER SAGER is a fiction writer and poet. Her work appears in New World Writing, Mantis, Sweet Tree Review, Little Patuxent Review, and other journals. Heather grew up in rural Minnesota and lives in northern Illinois.
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