Bright, sunlit snow covers the backyard. Wearing sunglasses, my mother is bent over a snow woman my brother and I made, tying a silk scarf around its waist. Mother's bottom thrusts out saucily and she smiles broadly. My father is not around.
Inside, we sit at a yellow Formica dining table, playing Canasta--the latest rage. A floor furnace behind me pushes hot dry air into the still room. My father plays a card. I have some of those and reach for the pile.
His left hand blocks me. "That stack's frozen. You can't take it."
Finally, my card falls. "I guess I can take it now." Bold for a sixth grader.
My father leaps up, raging. He tears and scatters cards. My little brother's eyes widen. Across from me, Mother's right hand flutters to her face. I don't move.
At the edge of the sloping front yard, I'm dreaming up at the stars when a tree asp, like Ming the Merciless, stings the inside of my bare arm and transports me back to this place, this house.
We're out for a Sunday drive, my mother and I, a break from her routine at the home. I turn onto Ivandell and find the house boarded up. An old gray Plymouth sits on blocks next door, and across the street, a ragged blue recliner sags on the front porch.
"What was the name of that little dog we had for a while?"
Mother smiles. "Dog?" Her hand lifts toward her face.
Like that small dog, the woman with the perky bottom is lost to me now. Gently, I lay her, and her house, back into the box and close the lid.
Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country with his wife and two yellow Labs. He writes mostly short pieces these days. Some have been published in various online and print venues. Some have not. He edits Camroc Press Review at www.camrocpressreview.com