by Julia Dixon Evans
I am one of six mothers but the others are all kinder than me. Sometimes Noah tells me that I am his favorite mother and I bask in that for days. I wonder how long he waits to privately tell another mother the same thing. I wonder how much more often the kinder mothers hear it.
When Noah was an infant, it was brilliant, really, the division of labor. None of us felt physically burdened by the child. We each had someone who understood us. Now that he is seven and he doesn’t listen and it’s so easy to say all of the wrong things, it’s more competitive around here.
I used to thrive under pressure. Before Noah. Before motherhood. Before being one of six mothers. Now I do not do well.
The second mother once told me that she thinks I’m stuck. Like some gear inside of me is stuck in a bad position. She has shiny hair but also shiny skin. I envy, on average, fifty percent of the things about her. Yes: her hair. Yes: her patience. No: her skin. No: her uncanny observations of me.
“Noah, for the love of God,” I say. Actually it is more of a growl. Or a roar. My throat hurts after everything I say. “Don’t you dare sit down right there.”
The other mothers are stuck, too, but they are stuck in the good position.
“Noah, don’t you dare eat with your hands,” I say and my throat hurts.
The first of the mothers disappeared on a warm Tuesday in February. The second on a Sunday afternoon, that mixture of calm nowhere-to-be and looming preparations for the next morning’s school day. The third a week later, same time.
With three of us left, things are harder but they stay so kind. I am the only one seemingly unable to handle this. Noah doesn’t listen. He never listens. I leave him with the other two mothers and drive to Costco for the family size cough drops and a one-and-a-half-foot-tall bear-shaped bottle of honey for my throat.
“Don’t you dare eat that honey,” I growl and pour myself a spoonful. Why can’t he just appreciate me. Why can’t he just sit and read in the sunny spot with me. “Can’t you just come and sit in the sunny spot with me?” I take a cough drop.
“Where’s Mother Number Three?” Noah asks and I’m about to tell him to be quiet but then I realize what he said.
Neither of us can find her. Another one.
The last mother leaves at noon on a Friday, when Noah is at school. I’m the only one left so I have to go by myself to pick him up and explain the final disappearance to him. I’m late to school because I don’t know the way and I don’t know how to schedule myself. I’m used to the others. I liked the others.
“I don’t know,” I say, startled that I’m using my normal voice. Nothing hurts.
This story was fed mostly by feeling insecure as a mother. It's noisy out there, so much interference and inferiority, and it makes me feel like I'm doing it wrong at nearly every turn. Also, I pick up that big bottle of honey whenever I am at Costco, but I can never go through with buying it. I just wanted to write about the giant honey.
Julia Dixon Evans is the author of the novel Other Burning Places, forthcoming from Dzanc Books. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in The Fanzine, Monkeybicycle, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. She works for the literary non-profit So Say We All in San Diego. Follow @juliadixonevans.