Momma by Amanda Rosenblatt


    Momma did the best she could. My sister says I’m some sorta apologist for her, but the woman brought us into the world, so I should count myself grateful.
    Momma had a penchant for being nasty. She was nice enough during the day, but at night, she would take to drinkin’. She would come into my room at night sometimes, her breath smellin’ of moonshine something awful. Always tellin’ me how I could be better, in detail, from my appearance to my grades.
    One time, I was so angry from her wakin’ me up in the middle of the night with her hatefulness that I told her I would heed her advice better if she weren’t no high school dropout and she had a man of her own.
    I shouldn’t have done that. I had to explain away the bruises to classmates the next few days. But other than that, it was just a lot of drunk yellin’.
    That’s the thing about her havin’ no man. She said Daddy just up and left when we were younger. That he wasn’t ready to be a Daddy. My sister said during one of the nights that she came in her room to yell at her, instead of me, that she said it was our fault. Momma told her the next day, with an ice patch to her hungover head, that she didn’t recall sayin’ that.
     The one thing I recall that is strange, after all this time, is we were never allowed in Momma’s room. EVER. We couldn’t even knock. I remember knocking once when I was five or six, and Momma yelled out to me “child, if you knock one more time, I will come out there and split your lip!” I just figured she drank too much again, but that was the closest I ever been to her room.
    I remember staying at a friend’s house for the night for the first time and when I said I forgot my toothbrush, she said “well, let’s just go ask my parents if they have an extra one.” My eyes got all big, and I said “you’re allowed in your parents’ room?!” She looked at me all funny, like I was a possum sittin’ up on her fence. “Aren’t you?”
    After high school, I went to a trade school a few towns away. Got work as a machinist. I was always good at math and it pays good. I like being the only woman at work, except for a nice enough receptionist who comes in part time to help out. After all the experiences with Momma and my sister alienating herself from me, rather than being a support system with all we were goin’ through at home, I don’t care much for the company of other women.
    Even though I was a few towns over, I didn’t want to visit Momma that much anymore. My sister subjected herself to stayin’ nearby, becomin’ a nurse and helping Momma out. I just visited on major holidays. I started dating and I couldn’t imagine any of the gentleman I was seein’ comin’ face to face with Momma.
    It is funny, though, that my sister says I make up excuses for Momma’s behavior when I’m the one who moved away. But I said Momma was a drinker and a single parent, so while she shouldn’t have carried on as she did, that it is what it is.
    Then came that call, despite how you feel about your family, that you don’t wanna get. Momma died.
    When I met up with my sister at momma’s house to ask what happened over some tea and honey, she said Momma had been gettin’ worse and worse the last few years. The doctor’s could not figure out what was wrong with her, but she was having dementia type symptoms. She wouldn’t eat or sleep. She especially would not sleep at night.
    It was strange too because Momma wasn’t that old. Maybe in her late 50’s. “Never seen it,” the doctors said.
    I helped my sister clean out Momma’s house. I insisted on doing most of the work, since she was the one who was there through Momma’s last days. I felt it was right.
    The part I left for last was Momma’s room. I had never been in there. I went to turn the doorknob and it was locked. I called my sister’s cell phone.
    “Why is Momma’s door locked?” “She always kept it locked.” “You didn’t take care of her in there? I thought she died in the room?” “No, the last few weeks, she was in the hospital. I guess when she was last in the room, when we closed it and brought her down, it locked behind her.”
    After the call, I felt around at the top of the door for a key. There was one, covered in dust. I turned it and entered the room.
    All that was in there was a rickety old bed and her clothes with a jacked up old bureau in the closet. No pictures of us anywhere. No teddy bears or other keepsakes. No jewelry. And the room had a musty smell that hung in the air.
    I left the door open and went to grab some boxes to pack the room up. I heard the door slam shut. I dismissed it as a window open and unlocked the door again.
    I came back into the room with boxes and started packing up items. The room felt cold. I cursed the open window, feeling the cool November air was coming in through an open window. I turned to close it, but when I looked closer, the damn thing was nailed shut. I felt an awful fright chill me to the core. What was going on?
    When I pulled the sheets off the bed, a pillow fell to the floor. I knelt down and saw a sizable box under the bed. Against my better judgement, I haltingly pulled the box over to me. I took a moment and opened it. Inside there was a piece of pottery and an envelope.
    I took the envelope first and opened it. There was a photo of my mother, much younger, but it looked like dark was swallowing her from the left side. You can barely make out that the pottery that is in the box is on a shelf or sitting on a table behind her in the photo, but you have to really look at it.
    I read the letter. A brief one. “How dare you bring this into our house?! May God have mercy on your soul and our children. I’m leaving until it is out of our house. You know where to find me when it’s gone – Marvin”
    Marvin was my Daddy’s name. What was this thing and why didn’t she take it?
    I took the sheets from the box and wrapped my hands around them. I’m not one for superstition, but I was feeling nervous. I used my covered hands to pick up the pottery. It looked pretty normal to me.
    I tipped the vase over and saw the word “Basano” painted crudely on the bottom. I put it back down into the box, and the note with the photo, and closed it back up. I left Momma’s room and looked up anything about a Basano base on my phone.
    To make a long story short, I took the leftover chips from my machining job and melted them into a box with a lid. I put the vase in the box, put the lid on top, and welded it shut. I buried the cursed item in a field 50 miles away. If you think I’m crazy, look up this story for yourself!
    I hope God forgives me for taking it into my own hands, Momma for keeping it, and my Daddy for leavin’ us behind. I don’t think my sister knew about it, but I prayed for her, too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that handling that item the way I did doesn’t kill me, too, but I am hoping because I am keeping the danger away from others, that I get a pass from God.
    Momma did the best she could. I just wish she did better.







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