'Everything is Fine' by Tina Barry
Mother and I peer from behind the torn screen of the kitchen window as the twins run across their lawn and onto ours. Their hair--neon white in the sun—is cut Dutch boy-style over too small ears.
“Hell-woe,” they call, thick tongued; the neighborhood “retards.”
Mother bounces on her toes, pointing. “Haw…haw….”(She’s trying to laugh but that muscle is rusty.)
“Look!” one twin yells. Pushing, staggering, they run to the bushes near our back door.
Mother’s a blur in a sour housecoat, slippered feet pounding the stairs, me following. A twin drags a dead cat from beneath a bush by its rigid paw. Skinny, gray, a scabbed-over eye; like any stray. Mother wraps her arms around herself, rocking back and forth. She wipes her leaking eyes with the back of her hand.
The twins stare at each other, then Mother. “We get you new cat! We give you cat! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!”
They run away, proud to have found a solution.
That night, I awake to Mother’s steps creaking across my bedroom floor. She lies down beside me. She’s crying again. Over the damn cat. She wants me to hold her, stroke her hair. She wants me to say, It’s fine, Mother, like I always do. Everything is fine.