Horseshoe Bend, 3.C.2, 400 words

Her shift began late; she, after he would slip asleep, would slip down the steps, left him sleeping alone through the full night she assumed. How could he tell her in a way above toddler paranoia that he had been bolt awake in bed through the full night alone? She built a lie upon his innocence that she had been there all along, the only one there in darkness with him, so dark in his windowless room that he would never be able to see her, but she was with him when he cried out. She cooed like the sound of a fan blowing. And after a stretch of mornings watching his eyes stumble open by the morning light faint finding its way from wall to wall into his locked little nest as if she’d been there all the time their real concurrence begin to slip with brief misregistrations. She would find him awake already when she was followed into the room by brighter bounces of sunlight. What was believable enough to a stranded toddler began to fall apart over the decay of her dependence. He’d stay in his room in the dark alone a ways into morning in a darkness that had no sun but her to wake him. The misregistrations swelled such that she arrived home to his believing that he’d been awake in the dark for hours. He’d lie awake, though in a state no different than sleep, until she dawned on him at some inordinate hour. By the door ajar from the previous night a terrain of vaguely similar though crepuscular and half formed would rise just to the edge of his sight’s sensitivity. A blue stripe painted around the room at eye level arises first, uninterrupted. He would scan for her and entrust her form to a chair, a chest, a molding. Her absence grew to be almost continuous. The neighbor man extended himself where possible to watch the boy only. She struggled free at odd hours. “Has Mr. Twill looked in on you?” And he grew. And he understood his mother’s true corporeality and of the wholeness of the dark room. He learned the light switches and took to sleeping in the upholstered chair in the parlor-type room where the sun could wake him. When he grew precocious enough he suggested the neighbor man needn’t look in on him, though he continued to visit.

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