Oh, if only I had made that deadline for Lexington’s first ever Flash Fiction Contest, here is what I would have submitted.
Searching for her teeth, I went into the kitchen and found a pot of soup they must have forgotten when the ambulance came. It was cheesy soup, probably cream of cheddar, yellow and gloppy. Already angry, I jerked the pot toward the sink only to nearly drop it at the site of a mouse sitting chest deep in what must have smelled like a good idea at the time.
My phone buzzed again with more text messages from my six siblings. I threw up my hands. This was too much! As if a possible accidental overdose of sleeping pills, missing prescription drugs, and the ensuing argument that either the help took them or mom literally took them, was not.
I snuck back into the kitchen and peaked over the rim of the oversize pot. He was just a baby. I knew I had to get him out, despite having spent the prior week reading Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner and coming to the conclusion that I would no longer over-function in stressful situations.
Mom’s house is in a quiet neighborhood with no real side door and a dangerous back exit. I picked up the old crusty spoon in one hand, the pot in the other. I walked out the front door to the small flower bed that we planted last Easter when mom showed signs of recovering from the last hospital visit.
Gently I scooped the cheesy mouse up and placed him under some purple flowers. I took the pot back in and threw it in the kitchen sink and filled it with soapy water. Just to get even, I decided not to wash the thing, because I meant business this time.
An hour later I headed back to the hospital to take mom’s lunch. I was feeling like a failure, having not found her dentures that disappeared the night of the 911 call. Another text came in and mom was getting out. ‘Wait she was supposed to…’ ‘Stay, who can stay with her?’ another text bleeped.
This time I would set my boundaries with my family. I would say ‘no’.
I arrived in room 5404 only to find my mother shaking a little, so I sat with her while she ate her cheese sandwich and fresh fruit with a Diet Coke.
It felt good; mom was going home like she has the last hundred times. It was so refreshing that I decided to share my story. With my second-eldest sister on the phone, my six-foot-five brother crammed into the chair in the corner of the room, and mom in her hospital bed, I told the story of the cheesy mouse. We laughed nervous but genuine, gut-wrenching laughter – the kind that has let us pass through such major dysfunction in the past, many times over.
Collecting ourselves, my sister asked when mom was being released, just what the doctors were saying and what to do about her medicines when she got home. Oh, and most importantly, she finished with, ‘Sis, did you wash the cheese off the mouse?’