had painted over wallpaper, over nails and screws now orange, had painted orange, had failed to fix the floorboards, had broken a banister spindle on her way out, had signed the lease illegibly, had fish-handed our parting shake, had failed to mention the fridge, or lackthereof, had failed to mention the ceiling fan death wobble, had bought us spare bulbs that didn't fit, had bought us blinds, broken, had hid a secret mess of aesbestos and pallet wood in the basement, had let the wall rot wholly in the bathroom, had (we're pretty sure) programmed the garbage disposal to cough dark debris when activated, had promised her husband would be by with the keys and a weed wacker, but he never showed up, and had actually (we discovered) months earlier divorced The Landlord who'd forgotten to give us a limit for friends on the roof, or suggestions for good fruit to mix with Yuengling, had no advice for getting up on time, no pointers for the wash, had no lunch packed for the week, no leftovers frozen, had left no number for a good dealer, a decent grocer, or her own home line, hadn't tucked us in, fluffed even one pillow, hadn't described for us the star shapes we'd make out from our window, hadn't mentioned that we could stay up late as we wanted, could rise with the birds if we chose, could grab the dirty city by our pasty hands and lift. If we tried.
We woke around eleven. Some stuff of ours vanished. She forgot to lock the door. Or maybe it was on purpose.
We put our monthly money in a numberless mailbox twelve times. Our absent mother. We never saw her, but we lived in ways we thought would make her happy. We got up. We went to work. Locked our doors. Saved our money, bought Christmas presents. We tried dreaming realistically.
She never came back until the day the hairdryer stopped. I went down to flip the breaker, and there she was. Get! she told me, put her foot through a pallet for emphasis.
And so we moved out; she followed us. Made home in the empty basement, and we kept our things in the attic. She was ornery. Her behavior, erratic. She kept us up at night. We lost sleep, our jobs, our dream of never renting again. We went down the stairs, narrow, dirty. We asked her for help, and she smiled.
About the Author: Tyler Barton lives in Lancaster, PA, where he works as co-founder/co-editor of The Triangle. Some of his sincerely held beliefs are that Seinfeld will never die and that writers can still save the poetry reading. Follow him @goftyler, or check out more work at his blog.
Story Song: "Triangle" by BadBadNotGood
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone