My house was quiet. No music, no conversation, no laughing. I closed the door and walked down the hallway into the living room. My mother was staring at herself in the mirror. She did that a lot these days, since she had lost her hair from chemo. She saw me looking at her looking at herself.
“What do I look like, Lucy?” she asked me. “I look like something.”
“An ostrich,” I said.
“I do,” she said.
She took a breath.
“What happened at school today? How is the beautiful and creative Ms. Mirabel?” she asked.
“She is beautiful and creative,” I said.
“And how is that hair?”
“Robust,” I said.
I smiled at her because she knew that was one of my vocabulary words.
Mama’s hair was growing back, in small fuzz all over her head. She did look a bit like an ostrich. But she said she was getting better. That’s what she said. That’s what mattered.
“Russell wrote a poem about his dog dying,” I said. “He brought his baby brother, Oliver, under the lilac bush.”
“Russell?” asked Mama. “Russell who drives Miss Cash to distraction?”
“He drives her to sighs,” I corrected her.
“Well, Ms. Mirabel seems to be working miracles,” said Mama. “What about you? Have you written anything for Ms. Mirabel?”
I shook my head, thinking about my poem about sadness. That’s all I wrote about these days. Sadness.
“One poem. I’m waiting for something to whisper to me.”
“Whisper? I am sure there are whispers all around you, Lucy.”
Mama turned back to look in the mirror again.
“Maybe you aren’t listening. Children hear everything. Children know everything.”
Mama and I looked at each other in the mirror for a moment. Then the front door slammed shut.
“That’s your dad,” said Mama. “How can we convince him to take us out for dinner?”
“Tell him we’re having liver.”
Mama laughed. She didn’t laugh much these days, and I liked the sound of it.
“Jack,” she called as we hurried to the kitchen. “Luck thinks I look like an ostrich!”
“I was thinking that very same thing,” Papa called back. “What a smart girl she is!”
“And, Jack,” added Mama. “We’re having liver!”
“NO!” came a cry from the kitchen.
The moon came through my window. Soon it would begin to move away. I could hear my mother and father talking in the living room as if …. As if nothing was wrong. I reached for my pad and pen. I would write something that would change life in my house. I would not write about sadness. Ms. Mirabel had said that she wrote to make life come out the way she wanted. Maybe I could do that, too.
Sadness. Your laughter can’t brush away
the sadness here. I hear you trying to laugh. I see you trying to smile and trying to talk away the sickness.
You can’t, you know.
No use. It was still sadness. Sadness was all I had.