Ordering In

by Caroline Taylor
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Is it a squirrel? A cat?

You can ask Mama, but she’s still in bed.

You peek. One tiny look into the darkened room. She’s on the telephone, her back turned away from you, the snaky black cord of the telephone stretching across her bare shoulder. Maybe she’s ordering in. She’s been doing that a lot lately, saying things you order in are much better than what’s already here.

She’ll get mad if she sees you.

You run back downstairs. The noise, loud, is still there, right outside the front door. Only it’s locked, and Mama has told you: “Do not touch that lock, Melissandra.”

You cover your ears with both hands, trying to shut out the awful shrieks. But that makes it real hard to do anything else. Like coloring. Mama’s hair is the same color as that crayon with the strange name that reminds you of leaves in the fall.

You run upstairs with your hands over your ears.

Mama’s still on the phone. You are not to bother her when she’s on the phone. Especially when she’s crying.

In your room, the crayons are spilled all over the paper. Daddy says it’s not your fault Mama lost your little sister. But when you ask him, “Are you going to find her soon?” he shakes his head, his lips quaking. “Alyssa’s gone to heaven, sweetie.”

Mama said that’s where your little sister was coming from. Now, she’s gone back there before you even get to see her. Probably because you were naughty right before Daddy took Mama to the hospital to pick up the new baby.

Mama needs to be happy again. Color her eyes blue and give her a big red smile. Like she’s glad to see you. The crayon for her hair has a nice sharp point ’cause you’ve never used it before. You can make her hair curly like it is this morning, or you can do it straight, the way it looks after Mama’s finished brushing it.

The noise outside gets louder. You can’t see the porch from your window, even if you lean way out. You won’t tell Mama that you almost tipped over and fell to the ground.

Maybe you can scare it away. You run back downstairs and pound on the front door. That makes the noise get even louder.

“Is someone at the door?” Mama calls out from her bedroom.

“It’s locked.”

“Well, leave it.”

That’s real hard to do with all that wailing and shrieking. Like the critter heard what Mama said and got real mad at her.

Now it’s got the hiccups. Hiccups are awful. You can cure them by drinking out of a glass backwards.

You run to the kitchen and pour a glass full of water. Even wild critters need help when they have hiccups.

On tiptoe, you reach up and turn the metal latch, opening the door just a crack.

Oh.

Before you can reach out, Mama calls you from the top of the stairs. “Didn’t I tell you not to open that door?”

You haul the cardboard box into the house, its squirming bundle squalling and waving tiny fists in the air. You look up at Mama. “I didn’t know you could order in from heaven.”

2 Responses to “Ordering In”

  1. John-Paul DeWalt says:

    Wow! Surprise ending, even though I had a glimmer of anticipation.

    Interesting use of internal monologue to show the story. I believe this was well written.

  2. Nice pacing and characterization for a brief glimpse into a much larger story.

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