Fiction Issue #57


And so it was, from the day he left us. I didn’t want to, but I ended up counting days, as if the numbers might add up to something more than gone, like some kind of miraculous equation resulting in next month’s rent. It wasn’t so easy, even when Jack was here and employed; now it was kind of hopeless. But that didn’t stop me from keeping a small hope in a locket, a little bit of paper with the word “yes” written on it. I wore it even in the shower.

Lacy and Danny knew better than to ask me for anything, although I could see the questions in their eyes. Their sweet, steady, hazel eyes they’d gotten from my side, thank you very much, along with their deep-rooted kindness. At their age, coming up on teenager-hood, they had plenty reason to wonder. They knew better than to trouble me. They walked to and from school along the gully, did their homework and chores without being asked, and were extra appreciative when I happened to serve their favorite dishes or suggest they might want to stay up to watch the end of their movie. 

I hadn’t gotten back my courage yet. Not enough to head out of our place to look for work or even to go shopping. Old habits end slow, but I knew I would have to venture forth, sooner or later. “Mama?” A small voice at the door.

“Yes, Lacy?” 

“Are you okay in there?”

“Yes, darling. I’m fine. Just a little tired.” I’d slept forty of the last forty-eight hours.

“Do you want me to make some macaroni and cheese, or something?”

“Sure, that would be fine.”

I could hear her walk back down the hall in her slippers, the soles making a hush hush hush sound against the carpet. I could hear the television with its canned laughter, someone on the street, revving the engine of a motorcycle, the low hum of the clock on my bedside table. 

It wasn’t as if everything was suddenly over. There was plenty good about Jack’s leaving. I was sure of it, though the list hadn’t come together as such yet. To be honest, he was a real son-of-a-bitch, and that was the truth. Once we could figure out a path, we would be on our way.

“Mama?” this time it was Danny.

“Yes, Honey?”

“Are you awake?”

“What a question. I just spoke to you.” That child.

“Oh yeah. Right.”

There was a pause. I could hear his hair brush the hollow core door with an eerie amplification.


“Yes, Mom?” If I wasn’t mistaken, his voice sounded like it was getting deeper.

“What do you want?”

“Oh. I was wondering if I could show you something I made in school today.” He was speaking with his mouth nearly touching the door.

“Sure, honey. Come on in,” I said. The kids were still holding back from this room, and who could blame them?

The door opened a crack to let in a widening sliver of light, and then Danny walked in slowly, not looking around, just walking straight over to the bed, carrying a big cardboard box, painted green. 

The room was dim from the drawn curtains, but I couldn’t really reach the lamp.

“Now, what do you have there?”

“I made a diorama of the Swiss Family Robinson’s treehouse.”

“You did?”

He nodded.

“Well, let’s have a look at it.”

Danny placed the box on the bed, the opening turned towards me. He had affixed a branch to the cardboard to create an arching tree in whose branches an elaborate network of platforms and mesh extended, secure in the upper section. Two small dolls, boy and girl, were grouped in an upper story. A woman doll lay in a constructed bed, blanketed in a lavender spread like mine. 

“Well, Daniel, this is lovely! Just look at the detail you’ve put into it.” For he had, down to the miniature plates and silverware on the table, cut and colored from oaktag.  

Danny looked from his diorama to me and back again.

And then, because I had to ask, I said, “Hold on, I thought there was a mother and father and four boys in that book.”

Danny didn’t say anything.

“Where’s the father?” I held this for a beat of twenty, then said it. Danny reached out to pick up his project.

“Wait,” I said, and held him by the wrist.

He looked at me with those sad, young boy eyes.

“He’s gone,” he said, after a bit, then under his breath, “and good riddance.”

“Daniel,” I said, because he was still his father. He dropped his gaze.

“I just wanted to show you –“

“I’m so glad you did. It’s really remarkable. You’ve made such a detailed, magical, believable world.” I said, but my voice dropped at the end.

It takes courage to believe.

“Thank you,” he muttered and picked up his project again.

Then, because the door had been left open, Lacy stood in the doorway.

“Macaroni’s ready,” she said. “I’ll bring you a bowl, Mama.”

“No, that’s okay,” I said, and her face fell. 

I adjusted myself in the bed, pulling forward. 

“I think I’ll try to get up,” I said. 

Both kids looked surprised, and Danny offered me a hand.

There were harder things to do than get out of bed, and I was going to have to do them.

By Amanda Yskamp

Amanda Yskamp is a writer of many genres and a collagist. Her artwork has appeared in such magazines as Black Rabbit, Riddled with Arrows, and Stoneboat. She lives on the 10-year flood plain of the Russian River, where she teaches writing from her online classroom and serves as a librarian at the local elementary school.