follow us:

THE summer after my high school graduation, my mother brought home a troll. She placed it in the middle of the coffee table. I looked up from the television and—there it was, while my mother’s shadow left the living room. The troll’s blue hair was parted and braided. Obvious question aside, I wondered, “Where did Mom get the rubber bands for its braids? And when did she do it? Did she make the braids while driving?” It had an inky penis scrawled between its legs. The troll grinned.

I asked my mother. “I need a hobby,” she said.

Fall arrived and I left her home with the tribe. During my first semester, I spent Thanksgiving with my sisters in Baltimore. At Christmastime, I went to Cancun with girlfriends. I drank Coronas and lounged on the beach, I kissed a boy and fingered two of my girlfriends. I stayed away for a year; my mother wept into my voicemail once a day, three hundred sixty-five times.

Bludgeoned by guilt and self-hate, I returned home. I opened the front door. Trolls: on the dining room table, covering past due bills and ominous envelopes from the bank; along the mantle as stand-ins for our baby pictures and diplomas; inside our bookcases—where were our books?

I found my mother in the recliner. She wore a pink tracksuit and white sneakers. She sheared her hair. My mother, who spent hundreds every month for perms or relaxers, was as bald and frail as a Halloween skeleton. My mother kept her attention to the troll between her legs, its hair half-fashioned.

“How’s school,” my mother asked, as if I was still ten and fresh from the bus.

“It’s okay,” I replied. “How’s your hobby?”

“Can’t you see?”

I didn’t look around. Instead, I prostrated in front of the recliner and placed a hand on her knee. “I just stopped by to say hi.”

“Took you long enough,” she said. “You’re as bad as those two other girls. No calls, no letters, no—whatcha call it?”

“Email, Mom.” I turned my head toward the far corner. A brown oak desk with a hutch slept there while, in front of the computer monitor, trolls stood guard. “So—what should I do here, Mom? Do I call for help or let this ride?”

“Do what you feel,” she said. “You’re good at that, I’m sure.”

“Can you blame me for staying away? Look at this shit!”

“Watch your mouth.”

“Since when do you care about curse words?”

“I’ve been to church,” she said and finished braiding the troll’s red hair. “Speaking of which, have you found a place of worship?”

“We’re atheists, Mom. What’s going on?”

    “I knew you were the strange daughter.” When she said it, her face revealed new wrinkles. She pointed a brown finger toward the kitchen. A cardboard box was on the counter, unmolested by trolls. “Some stuff I found in your room,” she said.

I pried open the box flaps. Inside, there were ten composition notebooks—those black-and-white spotted books drugstores sell for ninety-nine cents. I picked one up and opened it to the first page. The words I wrote were under the guise of short stories. My characters—all girls—cavorted with each other behind houses and in fields, in the backseat of cars and in empty movie theaters. The girls fucked each other, exuding a precocity well beyond my so-called genius, a label affixed to me by child psychologists and other quacks.

“I’m gay,” I said as I faced my mother, busy braiding green troll hair.

“Makes sense to me.”

The implication, a veiled indictment, brought back memories of the boy, the hospital stay, the destroyed mechanism surgeons removed from my pelvis. I crossed my arms and said, “I like girls. I want to fuck them. And if I wasn’t busy hiding that fact in high school, I wouldn’t have dated that piece of shit.”

“So you’re out?”

“No,” I said, lowering my eyes to the tiled floor. The coffee stain was a Rorschach test; I saw a troll’s silhouette. “Not really.”

“Love doesn’t hide,” she said.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? Where’s your hair? When’s the last time you’ve eaten? And where the fuck do you find these trolls?”

“Flea markets,” she said. “I had some cereal this morning. And my hair fell out from the Chemo. Last year, they suggested surgery. This year? Hospice care. Just like that,” she said and snapped her fingers. “One year and everything changes.”

Crying seemed appropriate. Apologies and hugs were reasonable, expected responses. I stood there, still in the kitchen, my arms still crossed, receiving the news as if I watched it on television. Therapy crossed my mind as I asked, “How much longer?”

“Not long,” she whispered.

“Nia and Naila don’t know? What about Dad?”

“No,” she said, presumably in response to all three.

“What do you want me to do?”

She pointed toward the desk again. “Do your computer magic and find me more trolls. Last time I went to the flea market, I fainted.”

I grabbed a chair from the dining room and placed it next to the leather office seat near the desk. I kissed my mother on her forehead and shepherded her to the chair. I nudged the trolls away from the monitor so we could see the screen.

My mother rocked back and forth—I couldn’t tell if she was cold or chilled by fear. I couldn’t tell if she successfully replaced atheism with religion; I presumed the hope of Heaven thrilled her while, in the back of her heart, the nothingness our family accepted as our fate stabbed at her, slashing and cutting at organs, conveniently missing the cancer. I opened a browser window and showed my mother the wonder of search engines and online auctions: any question could be answered; any desire could be purchased.


mensah demary is editor in chief of Specter Magazine, literary editor of Fourculture Magazine, and is a columnist for The Butter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Atticus Review, Metazen, PANK, Thought Catalog, Whiskey Paper, and elsewhere. Originally from New Jersey, mensah currently lives and writes in Brooklyn.

MORE: Twitter | Website | Specter Magazine

LF #024 © mensah demary. Published by Little Fiction | Big Truths, September 2012.


download | SHARE:OneYearAndEverythingChanges_files/One%20Year%20And%20Everything%20Changes.epubshapeimage_8_link_0
one year and
everything changes

by mensah demary