Maura’s mother sat hunched over the dining room table. Before her were a stack of torn photographs, a roll of adhesive tape, and an army of cigarettes smoldering in the chipped orange ashtray.
The table’s surface was scratched and nicked and dented; each scar a record of their lives: The spot where her sister banged her spoon nonstop, the only way she had of communicating in an uncommunicative world. The place Maura’s mother had darkened with shoe polish after her husband had tried to remove a wax ring with a knife. Maura’s eyes fell to the words I hate math; words written in anger on her algebra homework; words never meant to be engraved on the dining room table. Maura would inherit the table, she knew. Her mother’s idea of a joke—a permanent reminder of her hatred of numbers.
“You’re not taping this, are you?” Maura picked up a corner of last year’s Christmas picture—Her father stared up at her, his smile crooked and forced. She wondered if he’d already known then.
“Give me that.” Her mother snatched the piece from Maura’s hand and matched it up to the rest of the photograph. “Turn up the light.”
Maura twisted the dial and the room brightened. “Mom, you’ll never…”
The finish on the edges of the table was worn away; the table shook uncertainly whenever anyone accidentally kneed it. This table had seen years of homework; years of family dinners; years of art projects and scrapbooks and patterns cut out late into the night. This table had seen arguments and discussions; promises made and promises broken. This table had overheard conversations and held many confidences deep within its soul.
“There!” Her mother held the picture up. Her hands shook nearly as hard as her voice. “Can’t even tell, can you?”
For years Maura’s mother prided herself on fixing—fixing things and situations: What she couldn’t mend with a kiss and a hug, she repaired with glue and tape or a well-placed call to the father of the bully down the street. “Told you I could fix it.” She began piecing another picture together, this one of her sister, Cassidy, propped upon the couch beside her father.
“Mom, this isn’t going to bring her back.”
Her mother nodded; bit her lip.
“It isn’t going to bring Dad back either.”
The telephone rang. Her mother rose and walked to the kitchen, rubbing the place where her back got sore whenever she sat too long at the dining room table. Maura heard low murmurings, heard the quiet settling of the receiver into the cradle.
“That was your father.”
“He wants that table.”
Maura rubbed her hand across the table, worried her finger along the word hate.
“Get me the ax. I’ll fix him.”
And as Maura watched the blade gouge into the table, she swore she could hear whispered confidences and betrayals sigh from splintered wood. She carried the fragments to the curb, fished out the word hate, and put it in her pocket next to the torn picture of her sister.
Labels: Fiction Indie Ink