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Hereditary

I once dreamt that my mother walks the woods behind our house at night, with antlers unfurling from each side of her head and her eyes a luminescent gold. When I awoke to the smell of sizzling bacon, I was sure I would patter into the kitchen to find her at the stove, naked except for fresh scabs above her ears. I thought that the sun cloaked her night-stalking form like it did the moon and stars.

This morning, I awake to find the moon still hanging in the balance. I can see it from my window and figure it’s a good omen or whatever.

I can smell the bacon burning on the stove, and picture my mother in half-state, antlers frozen because of the moon’s presence, but fighting to be covered by daylight streaming through the window.

Really, though, she’s just too immersed in the morning news to check the skillet before it’s too late. She barely notices when I toss the charred strips into the trash and pull out a box of cereal.

“Isn’t Todd Hanelly just the best weather man?” she asks, holding her face in her hands as she leans over the counter. She stands to grab the old green moleskine from the top of the refrigerator. Using a pen caught in the gnarls of her tangled hair, she writes down the weather forecast for that day.

My mother has been keeping an almanac of the weather channel for over eleven years. She even records who’s reporting it, and what they’re wearing. I thought every mother did this until I was seven, when my best friend Hannah spent the night at my house. Hooked on sugar and fizzy drinks, we hid under a blanket fort as she giggle-whispered that my mother was the weirdest she had ever seen. At the time, I just shrugged, and tossed into the past. We never spoke of my mother’s eccentricities again.

When I leave for school, I make sure to hide the book of Robert Frost poems underneath the bookshelf. My mother likes to play treasure hunt with books; she thinks a fairy comes in at night to hide them in strange places. It’s a strange game we play, my mother and I.

School is a patchwork of déjà vu and misplaced modifiers. I play Frisbee with a group of juniors at break until one of them sends the disc onto the roof.

“Hey,” he says, “let’s send Taylor up to get it. Taylor, you’re not afraid of heights, are you?”

He knows I am. It happens pretty often, actually. A Frisbee lands on the roof, and the guys all jump into the Let’s Play with Taylor Game. They will surround me and make it seem like they will lift me, unwillingly, onto the roof. Hal will circle his arm around my waist in a way that is almost inappropriate, and pretend to pick me up with all his weight. I will pretend-scream for him to let me down. I’ll kick and yell until it almost seems real, before they put me down and I stalk off to class. The next day, someone brings a new Frisbee and it starts all over again.

But today, we have a new player. Mark Wilco has not played the game with us before, and so he is confused when the normally harmless guys begin to heckle and beg while I refuse.

“Hey,” he says, “Hey!”

We all ignore him. It’ll only take a few weeks for him to figure out the game.

“You shouldn’t talk like that!”

Hal puts his arm around my waist, which I pretend to claw at and scratch.

Mark slams into Hal, shoving him to the ground in a bizarre change of events. This is not how the game is supposed to work, I think. It is all wrong now.

The move sends the guys into a fight I don’t want to be in the middle of. I grab my old backpack from the grass and start towards my next class, ten minutes ahead of schedule. But as I’m leaving, I feel a hand on my shoulder.

“Hey, are you okay?” Mark asks.

“I was.”

He looks at me questioningly, his head cocked like a dog.

“You look like a dog” I blurt out, out of nowhere, “I mean, in a good way.”

He opens his mouth, as if to say something, but closes it quickly. Now he looks like a fish.

“I mean…they almost lifted you onto the roof. When you’re afraid of heights. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

I shrug and repeat: “I was”

“You’re a weird girl, Taylor.”

“You ought to meet my mom” I say, as I rub the flesh above my ears, where I feel a head-ache coming on.



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