'Tainted Suburbia'

Nikki Frankel

      Letters, individual alphabetic letters, hang on the corners of her kitchen cabinets. The sentence just uttered has been completely destroyed, its pieces scattered amongst the dishtowels and decorative springtime candles. A scarlet letter R hangs on fiercely to the refrigerator's left door handle. The clock above the sink, its number 5 obscured by an exclamation point, loudly clicks the seconds as they pass. There is no other movement in the room.

      The temperature dial for the oven sticks into her back as she slumps against the stove. Her gaze is fixed on the beige formica island she is now at eye level with. A sauce stain in the shape of Utah from last night's spaghetti dinner begs to be promptly eradicated, but she can't remember how to straighten her spine, much less manipulate her limbs to procure a sponge.

      “Mom? Mom? Are you okay?”

      Shaking young hands reach out to help take her weight off her knees. Slowly, she is walked over to the kitchen table and seated in the closest green upholstered chair. Her head falls forward and her chin strikes her breastbone with a considerable amount of force. Her arms hang at her sides, fingers slightly curled but still unmoving. As her legs continue to curve, her knees pointed to the left, she starts to slide off but is kept in place when the chair is pushed in and her chest is flush with the side of the table.

      “No you don't. Mom, sit up. Jesus Christ, can't you even look at me?”

      A young hand, no longer shaking, reaches out and forces her head back. Her eyes are now closed, eyelids lazily but definitively protecting her from the sight and person before her.

      The slight grip on her bottle blonde thin and dry locks is released. Her chin and breastbone meet again. Her breathing is labored as her stomach struggles to expand against the edge of the table.

      “Mom? Mom! Hello? I want to talk about this. Do you hear me?”


      She hears a distant but loud sigh.

      “Fuck this. I'm out of here.”

       Faint footsteps are followed by the unmistakable slam of the front door.

      The reconnection of door and frame spark the reunification of her mind and body. Her hands straighten and swiftly push against the side of the table, freeing her from her impromptu restraints. Her head rises, her neck now fully capable of support. Her legs stretch out forward and cross at her ankles. Finally she remembers what she must do.

      The clock tainted by the exclamation point continues to tick away the seconds, minutes and hours until the front door is opened again.

      “Honey? You home?”

      Heavy footfalls trail from the hallway into the kitchen.

      “Hey honey. What are you doing down there? Where's my kiss?”

      She scrubs at the red Utah on the island until his strong masculine hands clamp down on her shoulders. She has to stop. She has to face him, has to touch him, has to kiss his lips—those lips that supposedly…

      The stain, on the island and on their “family,” remains.