by Joseph Faria
I was drunk the first time she fell down the stairs, tripping over my leg. When I turned to follow her, I stumbled and hit my head on the banister. It didn't hurt much.
My mother was quite still; her legs were crossed at a strange angle as if she were getting ready to stand.
In the bathroom, I splashed cold water on my face. It took only a few minutes for the blood to seep through a towel I pressed against the gash on my forehead. It took three towels to stop the bleeding. I guess my mother's still at the bottom of the stairs. I can't see her from here.
My mother held the ladder, while I climbed to the top to pick apples. I wanted those big red juicy ones. The ones the sun makes hot all day. Those big fat ones, so perfect and round. Smooth and shiny, not a blemish on them. I stretched for that last one. It was so big, I could almost feel my teeth sinking into the sweet flesh.
The branch cracked and I went over, my hands sliding through the leaves, apples tumbling all around me. I was stunned for a moment. I lay looking up at the sky through the stiff dark green leaves.
My hands were bleeding, and my sweater was torn. I was pissed, not because of the fall, but that the son-of-a-bitch was still there hanging on the tree.
I picked up the ladder, a long, heavy one; my mother lay underneath it. She had a nasty red welt across her forehead.
The day before Christmas, it was cold, and I insisted we go skating. We went down to the pond. A long array of tree branches hung heavily over the pond, holding large weights of snow.
My mother insisted the ice was too thin. I ran, pulling her down with me to the edge. On the ice, I teased her with my clumsiness. She came toward me, slowly, testing thickness one step at a time. Then I grabbed her hand and twirled her around. She flew round and round. I didn't mean to be so forceful.
Around she flew, out to the middle of the pond where the thinness grew. I watched her from safety's edge. I was grinning like the sunlight pouring through the low, thick white clouds. That's when I noticed my hands were freezing. I yelled to my mother but she had disappeared. One minute she was there spinning like a Tasmanian Devil, and the next minute she was gone.
I ran back to the house, blowing on my fingers.
Like I said, she tripped down the stairs. When she screamed, I called 911. I called the minute it happened, the second I saw her. I was in a state of shock when the ambulance came. I shouted after, Love you, mom, as they carted her away.
She was my first love, the voice I once had.
Joseph M. Faria was born on the island of Sao Miguel,
in the Azores. His first book of short stories, "From A Distance" was published
in the Azores in June 1998 by Nova Grafica Press. He is the Assistant
Editor of the web quarterly, Linnaeanstreet.com.
He lives in Bristol, RI.
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