I am entering rougher terrain in order to try to finish the writing prompts for flashnano, almost a month after the event. The quality of stories will vary, some being more cohesive than others, some more developed in terms of concept and voice than others, some more exciting and gripping than others. I am thinking of some of these as being sketches for later characters and stories or even nonfiction pieces I’d like to develop. Some may never see the light of day again. Thank you for reading.
I had never seen a woman use a mud mask until my sister and I slept over at a friend’s house. That was when we lived in Arkansas where our father was a minister. My mother didn’t use masks, or at least not around me and my sister and brother.
My friend’s mother was a kind woman, civic minded, political, intense. She was married to a wealthy successful man though there was often something silent and dark about him. He hunted and my father didn’t like to hunt. He drank, my preacher father did not.
I wish I could remember more about why my friend’s mother came into the room where all the girls were sleeping. Were we being loud? I don’t remember. Was she upset about something? I don’t recall. I only remember the shock of seeing her transformed, standing in the doorway the light behind her, her face obscured behind the mud mask, her gaze now alien and removed.
She was always kind to me when I was young and in the years after, even after my family moved from Arkansas and lived in another state, even through my college and married years. For birthdays and holidays, I always received a card scribbled in her tiny, almost indecipherable script.
She was nice to me too when she came to eat lunch with my family when we lived in Florida. I can’t remember the infraction I had committed as an adult child to inspire my parent’s silence toward me at that table on that day, but my friend’s mother was most visibly distressed over the disparity of attention lavished on the adult children. I felt it in her darting eyes and the shifting in her seat. For her it had been an experience of unnaturalism.
I think of her as a little darting bird like the kind you find who distracts you mercifully when you look out into the trees seeking solace or praying for relief.
I don’t know how a mud mask fits into this little story other than to perhaps point to the reality that she was always only ever herself.
But maybe the compulsion to make neat and tidy those elements of a story which rightfully exist randomly is undertaken by the same type who seek a too ready oneness with romantic partners and peers, those who are the pleasers and the insecurely attached.
No matter, what my friend’s mother shows is that there are people who exist for you even if you have not asked for them and even if you think you scarcely deserve them but there they are, seeing you. And sometimes that is all you want: a witness.