the short story project


Lisya Hyams



That summer I decided not to get up
from the sofa. I piled some books up. Seven or so. I opened the one on the top
of the pile. I started reading. Most of the time I lay on my back on the old
sofa. It isn’t here any longer, that sofa. After that summer I couldn’t stand
it. I got up in the morning. I poured cornflakes into a bowl for the boy. I
made myself a cup of instant coffee. I didn’t eat. That summer I was almost
never hungry. I lay on the sofa and opened a book at the marked page. Sometimes
I lost my mark. I didn’t always find the spot where I had stopped reading. It
didn’t matter. I reread what I had already read. I skipped. I didn’t go back to
look. I didn’t remember what I was reading.

I could watch the boy from the spot
where I was lying. I didn’t send him to day-camp. There wasn’t any money. I
told the boy “There’s no need for day-camp; Mommy’s home”. The boy
didn’t ask to go to day-camp. I told the boy “You can do whatever you
want, but quietly.” He sat quietly. The TV was on mute. The boy sat
watching the kids’ channel. He watched cartoons in silence. He watched singing
in mime. He didn’t complain. I read. He watched TV. He played on the computer.
In silence. The TV was on the entire day on mute. The boy watched TV and played
on the computer the entire day. Sometimes I saw him from the corner of my eye.

That summer I got up for three
purposes only. Once a week I got up and dressed to sign up at the unemployment
bureau. They told me, “It is quite tough to find employment in your
profession at the moment.” Another time they told me, “We will notify
you if something comes up. Just sign for now.” I also got up to cook for
the boy. Spaghetti with ketchup, sandwiches on sliced bread, salads. Ten
minutes, fifteen at most. I noticed the floor was getting dirty in the kitchen.
I got up to wash the floors. The floors sparkled. I wanted the whole house to
sparkle. Once a day I got up to polish the floors into a sparkle. Other than
that, I didn’t get up.

Once in a while the boy
approached me for help. I told him, “You have to get by on your own.
You’re almost in second grade.” I said to him, “Bring me something to
write on.” The boy cut little memos. I wrote the names of game sites on
the memos. I wrote down a V. I told him, “This is the letter V. If you put
two V’s side by side you get the letter W.” I wrote W on a note. I told
him “All the sites start with three W’s.” The boy took the notes. He
came back to ask for more letters. I put down the book I was reading. I wrote
new letters for him. “Kangaroo starts with a K. H is the beginning for
House and Home.” I wrote down the entire English alphabet from A to Z for
him. The boy collected all the little notes.

When the summer was over I got up
from the sofa. The boy started second grade at the new school. I took the sofa
down to the street. I started to make phone calls. I could talk now. I was able
not to think of the months prior to that summer. In two days on the phone I
said more words than during the entire summer. Things started to work out. I
found a job. I was at the job when the boy called. He said “Mom, they
attacked the twins.” “Which twins?” I asked. “What are you
talking about?” “The towers, the ones we didn’t go up to, ’cause it
was too much money. They attacked them.” “How…?” “With
airplanes.” “How… How do you know that?! Where are you?”
“Home Mom. It says, ‘TERROR IN AMERICA’, on CNN.”

That was how, in one summer, my
son learned to read and write English.



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