Domestic Realism

by Kyle Marbut

My mother calls to say the night she lost her job the dryer wouldn’t stop rattling like it was cycling a load of loose keys, but she was so busy looking up the word severance she didn’t notice the racket stop, the door pop open, a doe’s head poking out—the dryer well and her pile of wet delicates traded for a sunlit field of pink daisies and lopsided dandelions half-kissed by a summer breeze—and the doe stepped out followed by another and a fawn and a pack of overeager dogs and hundreds of rabbits and squirrels and frogs and a slow-to-rise turkey vulture and more children than you would have expected—a procession of all the roadkill of all the years of all the county’s roads, restored and pouring into the laundry room, every room, out the doors and windows onto the lawn, trampling the town to a flat nothing as all the townspeople packed their cars and moved away, said “Yes—yes—of course—there should be a swamp here anyway—there was a swamp—a few more trees—we don’t remember—we never loved it here—we never loved!” as they drove over the lip of the world into sunrise, and my mother married a willow tree on a hilltop, sat under its boughs through four decades of rain in a day, water flooding and receding, the town like a dream the forest and its pools had, the children reminding the animals of headlights and impact and the color of the sky on mornings the old cookie factory pink-purpled the dawn—all this she tells me after the fact as her phone dies for the last time, says that she, too, might belong elsewhere but will tend her lover’s branches for now, and no matter how winter cold I get in the lonesome shadow of the mountain I am never, ever to come home, but the call drops so fast I don’t have time to say I love her, I miss her, I’m not her son.