When the women bring their mothers, their mothers check everything for lumps. They run their hands over the upholstery in the waiting room and over the creases of every grease-thumbed magazine.
When the women pull the magazines from their mothers, burying their faces in the feature article on p. 32, their mothers walk in circles around the office. They slide their fingers over wallpapered air pockets and down the chain securing the sign-in pen to the clipboard. Some mothers poke their fingers into the receptionist’s mouth and feel along her gums, where there are oh, so many lumps.
When the doctors call the women back, their mothers make themselves very small and crawl inside their own pocketbooks, which are satin-lined and smooth and soothing. The daughters grumble but pick up the mothers’ purses and carry their mothers back to the exam room. The mothers spend more time pushing their faces against the satin lining and less time listening to the doctors, whose words sound like rock chips.
When it’s the mothers’ turn to go, the daughters are not told. The mothers would not want to worry anybody.
If a daughter walked into this room of mothers waiting, she would hardly recognize her own mother. When it’s their turn to wait, these same lump-inspecting women flatten themselves until they’re each thinner than a sheet of paper. The whole waiting room, in fact, is just reams of flattened mothers stacked on top of one another.
The mothers do not want to be a bother.
When the doctor is ready to see a mother, the receptionist folds the mother into the shape of an airplane and launches her down the hall. When he is done with them, the doctor floats the mothers out the window and sends them on their way. Once they’ve drifted to the sidewalk, the mothers begin to reshape themselves, smoothing out all their pleats and folds. The mothers would not want you to suspect.
And that is why your mother is late for dinner, but she will be here soon.
Lindsay Fowler champions weird writing in all its forms. She holds her MFA in fiction from the University of Maryland and is working toward her PhD at the University of Missouri. Her work has appeared in Pigeon Pages, Monkeybicycle, and Psychopomp, amongst others, and she occasionally posts at lindsayannfowler.com. Follow her on Twitter at @lafowler8.