Today she didn’t want to wash dishes, so they gathered around and ate sausages out of a pan together, noisily, a clan of cave people.
Perversely, she also wanted to be alone, so the boys went to the pier. She made tea and stared into the cup, scrutinizing the floating leaves, a 19th-century fortune-teller.
But instead of seeing the future, she saw their past in fast-forward: drugstore pregnancy tests, nursing bras, the clock at 2 a.m., 11 p.m., 6 a.m., crying—theirs, hers—teething rings, bouncy houses, track shoes, a lost violin, acne cream.
The images clicked along like those in the plastic souvenir TV set her own mini-skirted mother bought her at the Grand Canyon in the 60s. Colorized. Collated. Combining into something larger.
She added more, with detail. The middle boy walking along the shore collecting sea glass in her old evening bag. The youngest asleep in her lap in the hospital waiting room before a second hearing test.
New, future snapshots visited her: college dorm rooms, sexy girlfriends, office cubicles, missed flights, family dogs, bald spots.
She’d gone as far as an invented granddaughter’s DUI when her sons slammed back into the house, wanting more meat and pointing out a bloodied knee.
The youngest handed her a greeting card, the edges softened with a heavy crust of glitter. A still-damp photo booth strip of the three floated out when she opened it. In each frame, they’d made different ferocious faces. Her youngest son’s hands flew like miniature pterodactyls as he signed, “Do like it?”
She only nodded and smiled—as formal as the Queen Mother, a woman whose picture represented a family, an entire empire, centuries, a mother who seemed destined to watch over everyone forever.
Lynn Mundell’s stories have appeared in Eclectica, Number Eleven, Oblong, FlashFlood, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and Counterexample Poetics, with more forthcoming in Literary Orphans and Blink Ink. Lynn co-edits 100 Word Story.