SmokeLong Quarterly

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His Mother the Rubble

Story by Jesse Eagle (Read author interview) March 27, 2012

art by Ashley Inguanta

His mother sat next to his bed while he slept, her eyelids swollen, and hummed an old song. She hummed and fought sleep and downstairs fire spread; and soon her eyes closed and dreams and she drove west again. She drove with the sun overhead, the asphalt melting to tar, dry air seeping through the cracks, the engine bending. Dashboard needles rose and soon something broke loose and both pedals shook and steam gushed from under the hood. She pulled to the shoulder, sliding on the gravel, her hands tight on the wheel. The car clicked and banged and finally settled. She cracked the window, smelled its disease. An animal lay on the side of the road, red insects in its eyes. She took off her shirt and wiped her armpits with it and dug under the seat for lipstick. She found one amongst the gummed and glued, twisted it open and eased it along her lips until a shiver. The animal twitched, oozed. Cerise red. She left the money and the keys and the car smoking and walked along the shoulder looking for a gap in the wire. A school bus passed; empty, rusted to its nub. She slipped through the fence and stood at the edge of the sand, the highway behind her. Wind, serpentine to the horizon, winding cracks in the desert, wings. She took off her shoes and walked. She walked under shadows of birds, along the cracks, the sun peeling her skin away in sheets, shrinking and drying her. She walked until her feet burned and her tongue wilted and her ears went soundless. She walked water from every cell. She walked to where the horizon was, but it was only mirage, and soon her eyes drained and her legs gave way. She lay in the sand, limbs curled, the sun digging into her face. The sky sunk and the stars; and the wolves came, sniffing the air, a pack of them, and circled her. Closer, until their breaths were inside her ear, closer, until their noses were wet against her skin, and then, howling, they tore flesh from her, their teeth deep, their eyes. She remained still, feeling each bone of her chewed, feeling cold on her muscle, their tongues like soft scars, feeling her eyes open. She sat next to his bed and hummed, small cuts on her fingers, her robe soaked through. Smoke slid under the door and swept to the ceiling and ballooned. Neighbors gathered in the street and the trucks came and lit the room red. He woke, his eyes hives, and his mother gathered him up and brought him to the closet. She straightened his pajamas and ran her fingers through his hair. “Dream,” she said and she spread a sheet on the floor and lifted her robe and bent her legs and urinated. “Dream, baby,” and she wrapped the damp sheet around him and picked him up and held him against her heartbeat. And she inhaled and kicked open the closet door and as they moved through the house he felt her burn more and more.

About the Author

Jesse Eagle lives in Chicago, and attends Northwestern University.

About the Artist

Ashley Inguanta is a writer, art photographer, installation artist, and holistic educator. Her work has most recently appeared in Atticus Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and the anthology The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry. Her newest chapbook of poems, The Island, The Mountain, & The Nightblooming Field honors a human connection with the natural world.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Five

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