When Things Got Messy

Grandma says it was Mom’s housekeeping, which is ludicrous, considering Dad. True we’d litter the house knee-deep with underwear and bread crusts. But Mom always corralled us eventually, snapping a dishtowel at our thighs. We wore her old hotpants and yellow gloves and scoured everything until it gleamed. “We cleaned the shit outta this place!” she’d scream, exalted, her face like a bright, shiny apple. I think Dad was hot for slobs. After Mom, there was the colt-legged heroin girl. She bought us kittens who spent the first night crying and dropping soft, butterscotch turds onto the floor. We left them the next morning, little landmines for Dad. It was a Sunday, and while he slept, she snuck us into school, a thick ring of janitor’s keys jangling at her hip. She taught us to use the old aluminum trash chute as a slide. It was five floors tall! We held our breath and rattled down, arms pinned to our sides. We imagined green lunchmeat and all the different ways to die. When we stumbled out, blinking, with sticky hair and clenched palms, the air never seemed so clean.  

[This story first appeared in print in The Ne’er-Do-Well #2.]

Lacey Jane Henson is a writer who lives in Seattle, WA. She has a collection of short stories and recently completed her first novel, Nobody Told Me.