Wednesday, September 19, 2007
She rose early to check on her children. She remembers those days in the laboratory, conducting experiments, collecting data, staying up until the sun was up, red-eyed, finishing after a long nights work. But she had grown old since then, and now her life was changed. Here she had her hallway and the now dark room full of little sleepers; her bathroom with the ugly ceiling light. Lately she had been thinking, perhaps I should return to academia. Perhaps, now that the children are born, I should take up my old position again, or even a higher one, and probe again into reality’s tiny, but fundamental truths. She switches off the light in her bathroom and returns to bed. There she covers herself up to the neck with her still warm, down comforter. Lying in bed, she is unable to sleep, and finally decides to begin breakfast. Walking carefully down the stairs she is confronted with a memory of descending into that much feared basement lab in Macky. She can hear again that silence that seemed only to be concealing the noise of ghosts and lurking things; she can almost see the painted yellow strip on the floor beneath the last step. And what smells there were there! Thickly perfumed walls soaking in the chemicals of thousands of experiments, decaying carpet, the smell of mold and dust. Why had she come here again? She was looking for a meeting, to make a scheduled appointment, she was going to re-enlist—what joy it would be! But it was so dark here? I can’t seem to find the room. It’s just my lonely old kitchen. Stopping, she lets her eyes adjust to the details. The kitchen is vast, reaching far and low across the long floor, narrow in comparison to its length, with a counter more suited perhaps for a bar. She makes a slow trek to the refrigerator. Nothing but leftovers and milk. She takes out the milk and clumsily searches for the cupboard handle in the dark. Dry goods. She takes down nine bowls, each decorated with the same twisting-vines-and-flowers design, one, the top one, chipped ever so slightly in the shape of an upside down triangle on the pink-bordered rim—this one’s for Mike—; a transparent, metric only measuring cup, and a tan pitcher. Lifting the extremely heavy milk jug, she fills the pitcher all the way, and then carefully measures out a third of a liter for each of the bowls—the pitcher empties quickly and she must refill it several times. Then taking down the giant cereal box, she covers each bow of milk, above the brim, with a thick layer of corn flakes. Finished, she replaces the milk and the cereal box. All is ready for the hungry mouths. She removes nine forks from a drawer, and heads up the stairs towards the children’s room. But in the hall she notices that the sun isn’t even up yet. With a start she looks at her watch. Quarter to five! The kids don’t have to be up for another two and a half hours! She puts her hand to her forehead; what should she do? If I don’t wake them, she thinks, the cereal will surely get soggy. And the stuff’s so goddamn expensive these days! In a panic she flies down the stairs. Taking the cereal box down again, she reaches into the first bowl, which just happens to be the one with the chip, but she stops herself just in time to prevent the dripping handful’s entry into the box. What am I doing? She places the cereal box on the counter, almost throws the handful back into the bowl, runs back to the staircase, returns with a spoon, and in no time she has finished the first bowl. Setting it down she takes up the second, but she cannot finish it. It’s too big. These bowls are at least twice her size, and she is no small woman. Defeated, she puts the bowl down, returns to the refrigerator, takes out the big jug of milk, fills the measuring cup a tenth a liter, pours it into the second bowl, then refills the first to its optimal, and covers both with another layer of flakes. Then, having put everything away again, she heads up the stairs. She’ll just wake those little bastards up! She’s almost in a fury. Throwing open the door, she screams: “Wake up and eat you fucks!” Nine tiny bodies, none taller than a foot, and apparently smudged in some sort of shiny black gloss, fly from their beds, their grinning mouths and sharp teeth swarming and bright in the darkness, they rush out of the room, down the stairs, and in seconds are yelping for more cereal. I can’t go back to the lab, I have to feed all those hungry mouths after all, and what appetites!