Termites in our Tuskawilla House
All we want on a Saturday is one day in our own benign custody.
No, I am not her. She is my mother. If you want, I can get her. No?
I have to go to the patio, through the French doors where outside
feels busier or sweatier, like the whole world is in behind-the-scenes
production. My father has the job to hum like a lawnmower. My brother,
to throw an encyclopedia set - one by one - out of a window. Ditch.
Ditch. Ditch. Ditch. I know he’s just playing. Bouncing a beach ball
against the stucco. I say, the mister for the air conditioning is coming.
She is deep frying, outdoors because the sky doesn’t stain. The pan oil
gone thin, hungrily takes each slip of food, foams its mouth, then hushes.
I say again, the mister for the air conditioning is coming.
My mother’s face has become that weary private war of hers
against interlopers of all kinds: swearing, sultriness, swindlers.
She freshens her floured hand against her skirt. Her body is a clean
island, sometimes she even goes to church by herself. My older sister,
not at home is free to come and go. On the telephone, people can’t tell
the three of us apart. I go back inside where me and the overhead fan
are alone together, swooning.
When the mister arrives, he goes right up to the side door.
The lawnmower coughs and stops, like someone motioned at the throat
‘cut it off ’. By default, the encyclopedias now seem bigger or falling
from further up. Itch. Itch. Itch. Itch. My father makes all of the usual offerings,
‘Iced tea, lemonade, soda with ice?’ and in a minute my mother
is going to tell my brother to quit it, or else. Not another book drops.
As if on cue they come inside, my parents and a man with a wrung out
face, used to giving warnings. It was as if he came to say:
The house is vanishing. Don’t be lonely in a family.
I don’t know why, but I have followed them into the garage.
I stand in between my parents like an only child. We watch him go
to the air conditioner’s portal frame. Rivets come out like it’s a stick up.
His face wrings out news. It’s not a problem with your filter. See these?
Soon my father and the mister are on their knees, tearing out
a clump of the wall like its a barrage. All over - inside - is a colony,
and I am seized by some good stupidity, overtaken by insult,
the house rapidly changing its own conversation. I wonder,
where is my brother? Termites. Says the mister.
You’ll have to fumigate those suckers.
On a Saturday, we just want that cooked all day supper,
and we curl around the meal like five sisterly fingers.
While my mother is saying grace, I think I can hear them
satisfying themselves, mindless and breeding - horrible in the huge
pleasure of their eating. If only they could be still
for a moment, at the same time, like we are now, indivisible -
We would never want to kill anything that could be stilled.