Alice Maglio


I spent the afternoon shelling pistachios and eating them as if they were nothing. The shells formed a pile by my elbow which grew to massive proportions by the time twilight lilted in and cautioned me: Cover your tracks. I swept the hollow half shells into the trash and dragged the bag out by the garage. I held my breath and turned my face away as I dropped the bag into the tall plastic barrel.   

I awoke around 2. Through my open window I heard a panicked, rustling sound. If I heard the sound, then the sound heard me. All I could do was go out and meet it—show it I was not afraid.

The sound was my mother. She bent over the trash barrel, left arm almost totally swallowed by the plastic throat. She thought she was a raccoon again. I was beginning to believe her. Permanent darkness circled her eyes, and her nose had begun to acquire a snout-like quality.

What are you doing? I asked.

She jerked her head up at me, and light from the street lamp flooded her pupils so they glistened greenish yellow. Remembering she was my mother, she removed her left arm and stood up straight, but she placed a clenched fist behind her back.

What’s in your hand? I asked.     

She shook her head. She twitched her nose.

Come on, you can tell me, I said.

She reached towards me and opened her palm, full of shells. Little wooden ships, she said. Are you trying to sail away from here, piece by piece?