Chipped-off Paint (Part One)

December 30, 2010
By , Burlington, MA
Out the window, a scraggly and barren tree stood carelessly, its tallest branches only as high as a child could jump. Surrounding the hole from which the tree protruded were brown and rust colored leaves, some of which were black from the dark mud which ensconced them. A bush was in the farthest corner of the attempted-green patch, where the rotting grass met the cement. The bush too was dying. Only the frigid wind lived, vivaciously, viciously. It whipped through the coal and coffee leaves wickedly. It turned chubby faces raw, made eyes sparkle with tears. The wind fought with all, and the skimpy, pathetic tree shook in defense. Near the small and weak tree stood a tall tree, thick around its middle.

The pale child sighed. The father, oblivious to the angst of his kin, continued to whistle. He looked up only when the girl began to pick at the white and already chipping paint which coated the sill and frame of the window. Her fingernails had been gnawed off with anxiety and discomfort, and this self inflicted disability made the desired task (to eliminate completely the window's covering) very difficult. “Stop it.” The father! He spoke! And oh, what words. They cut through the silent still of the room as cruelly as the wind outside. He stood up, angered at his child, though she had ceased at his requesting words. He walked slowly, tantalizingly, out of the room, one foot after the other, as though daring God to strike him down. As he left, the child began chipping away, again.

The child gazed out of her viewing portal to the frigid Autumn day, and thought of Mama, without longing or aching, for to think of Mama did not make the child hurt, nor did it make the child long. Mama with her shoes. They most often were black and polished, nearly mannish in their squareness. Her shoulders were broad, her look defined. She was anything but intimate-that much had been clear. Her arms seemed always to be folded over one another, across her chest as she walked, her fingers strained and clutching the small layer of fat on her arms. Her hairs were a peppery color, although gray too had its place. In years, she was quite young, but her skin was wrinkled, her vision strained. Her face was like a rotting banana. It was a sallow yellow, but tainted with large coffee colored stains. Mama's voice was airy and dulcet when, and only when she was happy. When her eyes half shut in anger, and her hands began to shake from the emotion that consumed her, her voice rung out gratingly, her words became clear and hollow. Mama was gone, but not because God had taken her. No, the child decided, Mama was gone because Mama had wanted to go. Mama always left when she felt she wanted to. She would be back soon, the child was sure. Mama always came back. Mama would always get mad. Then Mama left. But Mama always came back. Papa didn't care for Mama much either. But his voice was guttural and inflectionless, and cruel. The girls fingers were covered with residue from the paint of the window. A layer of wood had become visible. The skin around her fingernails was cut and dirty. But another layer had been chipped off; progress had indeed been made.

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