Mastodon Cabin - Francine Witte - Sensitive Skin Magazine

Every night when the sun sets, I see her. Just over my shoulder like a blind spot in the rearview. Always. Been like this forever. I tell this to my best friend Al, and she laughs her giggly laugh, the one that makes me feel like I’m Johnny Carson.

Al tells me I’m paranoid. Seeing things that aren’t there.

photograph by Pattie Beadles
photograph by Patti Beadles

“What’s chasing you?” she wants to know. I think she’s jealous cause no one’s chasing her. She is alone in the universe, undesired and unpursued.

So okay. I gotta deal with this by myself. Like always. Like I have ever since she left. My mother. Ever since my mother left me and my brother alone in that peely old apartment over in Corona. I was 15. He was 17. He stole milk and saltine crackers from the man downstairs. Old Mr. Goldstein. Old man with a store full of things we could use. Tom, my brother, took good care/bad care of me. Like he got me things, but later he’d climb on me when he thought I was asleep. But that’s not for here.

My mom called me last week. “I’m back in New York.” She asked about Tom, and I told her I still hadn’t heard from him. Yeah. This makes 10 years now. Thank God.

This wasn’t the first time she called. She gets on these spurts, and I’m sure that’s the reason I lost my last three jobs. They weren’t much. Receptionist. Hi, how are you kind of crap. But I’m pretty, and I can say hello.

But Mom, she calls and calls and gums up the lines so no one else can get through. The last boss didn’t even give me notice. I should give Mom his number.

I know what she wants. Not that corny Oprah moment where some family finds each other and cries and cries. Ugh. Where do they get those people?

What she wants is this. She knows I’ve been seeing my father. That’s who she’s looking for. My dad was my dad, but he was heartbreak city. I was young, but I remember those strange women always calling. I remember my mother throwing a bowl of peas at him once. Then she slammed down the phone. He just stood there and did a stony Keanu Reeves kind of thing. He left soon after that.

Then about three years ago, I was working at a balloon factory. Really. And he shows up. During his clown phase. That’s a long way from the lounge singer he wanted to be, but it’s keepin’ him in show biz. Anyway he looks me over. Then he asks me – are you – are you? Yeah. I say. Yeah.

Somehow, my mom finds out. And she still wants him back. I guess some women never learn. Well, I’ll learn for her. She can chase and chase all she wants but I’m not gonna have a hand in any pea-throwing, phone-slamming goings on if I can help it. Besides I like having Daddy all to –.

photograph by Patti Beadles
photograph by Patti Beadles

One day, I can’t take it anymore. The woods are full of trees and rabbit holes and places to hide. I tell Daddy to meet me there. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I don’t know what I want to happen. My shrink says I’ll never meet a man if I keep thinking about my good-looking Keanu Reeves daddy that way.

Al’s got a cabin near a lake. I guess a lot of stuff has drowned there. Maybe it can drown what’s inside of me.

When I get there, the dust is a cloud, and outside it has started to rain. Biblical stuff. Big drowning lake’s getting bigger by the second. I look out the window, and I watch the rain washing the ground. The trees are drooping like a tired man and out of them walks a form. Something human. My clothes are wet, and I strip down to nothing. I’m a victim. I remember my brother and how I pretended to sleep and how I liked what he did. I am disgusting. I have two heads. I want my daddy.

But it isn’t my daddy walking out of the trees. It is my mother knocking at the door. Al. Thanks for telling. I’m down to the naked fact that my Daddy is on his way and my Mom knows I’m in here. She knocks and knocks. I open the door like a wound.

-Francine Witte

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