by Emily Livingstone
Laura reached into the purse and unfolded the wallet with a practiced hand. She removed the cash.
Her phone trumpeted an alert. A sale. Someone was getting a steal: her mother’s antique bowl, a prized possession of Grammy Lola’s. Sold for $25. No reserve. Laura had other items listed, too: the blue cable-knit sweater that her mother wore for casual gatherings, the watercolor that hung in the bathroom, a silver ashtray, and a photo album of Laura’s baby pictures. Ten people were watching the album. People were freaks.
“Why is the television on?” her mother called from the den. “Who left it on?”
Laura shut it off.
Her mother said, “Where’s Charlie?”
“Charlie’s going to be on television,” Laura said. “He saved a child from drowning.”
“On television? My Charlie. Turn it on.”
Her mother focused on the screen as it flashed with people running, people eating disgusting pizza, and people looking grim because “the Shingles virus is already inside” them.
Sometimes, Laura said Charlie was at work. Sometimes, he was at the library. Once, he was cheating on his wife with a bimbo in a cheap motel. Once, Laura told the truth: that her precious brother was dead. Her mother had cried for an hour and broken things. She’d suddenly remembered Laura’s name and cursed her.
Well, she could curse all she wanted. Her life was disappearing around her: past, present, and future.
“Will you get my purse?”
Her mother checked her wallet. “I need to go out. I need to get things.”
“Sure, we will.”
“At the playground, on the monkey bars.”
“What would he be doing there?”
Laura walked away. She started packaging the bowl, surrounding it in bubble wrap and newspaper. She made out the address label and closed up the box.
There was a little rush of satisfaction.
Then there was a pang of anxiety. All her eBay auctions but one would end in an hour. The last auction would end in three.
It was time to get ready. She took the two diaries, hers and her mother’s, and laid them in bubble wrap, ready to ship. She took a Polaroid of herself with Charlie’s old camera, and put that on top. Flipping open her laptop, she checked the posting.
“What My Mother Has Forgotten and I Haven’t.” Description: two diaries, one Polaroid.
She left the computer open to the page and went to the kitchen. She plugged in the blender. She dumped in the raspberries and strawberries from the crisper drawer. She added all the pills from her mother’s bottle with its myriad warning labels. Hand over the lid, she pressed “Pulse,” and it became a sickening, bloody-looking mess. She added ice. More grinding. Laura stuck it in the fridge. Not yet. Not until the packages were ready.
She texted the boy down the street who did errands for her: Packages to go out. Will leave them on porch with your cash in envelope. Must go out today. Thanks.
There were already five watchers and one bid: $2.63. Why $2.63? Laura scratched at her wrist, an old habit. $2.63 for the story of the day she came to her mother, when she was only fifteen, with a problem—nausea, a test, the deep need of a daughter for her mother. The day her mother brought her to get it taken care of. The day her mother stopped looking at her straight-on. They’d both written about it. It was something Laura had picked up from her mother—the driving need to document in secret all that occurred. She’d thought—surely her mother hadn’t really stop loving her—she’d hoped—but then she’d read the entry from that day. Laura to doctor’s. That was all it said. The next day: Laura unbearably weepy today. Sent her to her room. Then, nothing. No mention of Laura in the diaries again. Ever.
Laura looked at the screen. A new bid: $14.99. Two hours and twelve minutes to go. There was a reserve of $25.01, and she wasn’t going to let it go for less than that. If someone wanted to read this—to try to piece it together like a detective on a 48 Hours episode—there should be a price, and it should be more than a stupid bowl. God knows, there was a price for Laura, and there would be for her mother. Two hours and ten minutes to go.