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by Nan Wigington

What is there to tell. Her end started here — the sizzle of the sun on the sidewalk, the crunch-pop-fizz of a late summer Saturday. My hand was in hers. She was humming. Beep, bop, buzz, baa, baa, boom. A stranger may have thought the nonsense was for me, a riddle that gave order to the world, but I knew better. That cheep, chirp, chuckle, her grin of song was what weighted her. It gave her feet purchase. Without her internal teapot, she might have dissipated like steam. Did I hold my mother, too? I like to believe I did. Perhaps this gives me too much blame and power. Me, this little flash, lump, clump of once girl. But I delude myself. Love does that. It’s a crack you fall into and never quite get out of.

The middle is here — the cessation of song, the sclick, fwump of the bus doors, the feel of her cloth purse dangling, ticking against my head as we mounted the steps. Everything we had left in the world swinging there — the keys that opened nothing, the envelopes with letters never sent, the bills opened but never paid, the pocket bible, its blur of miniscule verses, the random change of our bus fare. Tock, tock, tock, it went. Like a clock. And because we couldn’t sit, it didn’t stop. I wish I could have known where we were going. We were not going to see my father. “That man” had long ago growled out his certain death. Our old landlord, too, rattled as he was, would not budge, could not let us back in. Even the women who once promised help were impossible. The papers they gave her swam with too many words, anyway. And each word forbade compliance, refused signature.

Her last was here. It was in the slap, smack, crash of our feet up the capitol’s steps. There was, too, the yap, zap, zoom of children my age finding something normal, hopeful under this wide dome. The tremble of the tour to nowhere. We took the 99 rickety steps to the observation deck, went out the door that was a window. She put a hand on the iron pillar, then she pulled me toward the edge.

“Look at that, Constance,” she said, although I was too small to see over the railing, too little to know anything but the jingle, meow, glint of gold and blue sky. While I was looking up. That’s when she slipped free. How can I say it? No sound can. She floated away. Her body fell. There was nothing left but strum and purr.

Nan Wigington’s recent flash fiction has appeared in Gravel, The Airgonaut, Sicklitmagazine.com, and No Extra Words. Nan has worked as an unclaimed property clerk, an accounting analyst, an ensemble actress, and a paraprofessional in a K-2 Denver Public Schools Autism center classroom.