This article is taken from Stand 240, 21(4) December 2023 - February 2024.

Elizabeth Cooke Happy Families
The evening is drawing in as I walk alongside my mother. When she was alive she had a way of drifting and dancing, but in the last year of her life all that was lost.

A deck of cards and a house under the trees and the magnolia that drops wax-imprinted petals by the yellow door: this is our route and our currency. Mother’s hand gripping mine as we slump along somehow down Grove Street and towards St. John’s Road, Roman cemetery behind us, river running to our left. Here’s the turning to Henrietta Park.

I can hear a loud and dangerous pattern in my head, peeling off distortions with the thunder of an old printing press. I’ve got no way to interrupt the mechanism once it begins. The cards burn inside my pocket. Hurry now to get to the yellow door. Sometimes I’ve come knocking here late at night, at four am in the morning, on Sundays, on weekdays, I’ve come here laughing and hyper and I’ve come here on my knees, baffled and strung out, but all I need to do now is knock on her door.

Her name is Elizabeth Mitchell. She’s an older woman, I don’t know what age, and she once had a grandson with the same condition. She told me that he got exceptionally tired one day and chose to lie down on a railway track. She said it with a pained smile, some kind of awful comedy that we both understand.

Her grandson had never ...
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