#5 from Maman (editors’ pick)

fiction by Alana I. Capria — from issue nine

There was a howling behind the walls. It was long and loud and constant. It shook the shutters. It hung from the eaves. It whipped the curtains. It made the beds lumpy. Mother stood in the midst of that howling with her mouth closed. When she breathed, her nostrils flared. The howling grew louder. We clapped our hands to our ears to drown out the sound but it wove its way between our fingers. It pushed into our heads. We begged mother to stop the howling but she barely looked at us. She sat on the floor in front of us, her knees on the floor, and when she finally looked at us, it was with a wide, tight-lipped smile. The howling came again. It dripped from the ceiling and rose up from the floor. It came from each wall. It surrounded us. The howling was deep and piercing. It had metallic undertones, a tinny after-melody. When mother cocked her head to the side, the howling deepened into a yowling. The yowling was just as terrible. The yowling made our stomachs loosen. We were afraid we would wet our pants but we did not. We kept our urine in. Mother stood up. She went to the refrigerator, took out a gallon of milk, and poured us each a glass. The milk foamed into a thin head at the top of each glass. Mother brought the glasses to us. She offered them with the same smile she wore before the yowling. She gestured for us to drink. We were afraid to. She nudged our fists with the glasses. The glass was wet with condensation. The house always had a clammy coldness but the milk was chillier than that. Beads of water dripped down the glass sides and struck the floor. We took the glasses from mother. The yowling was in our ears. It was in our throats. If we opened our mouths, the yowling would come from those deep places we were not supposed to know. We opened our mouths. The yowling increased. The milk was not fresh. We smelled the sourness. The white was off. Yellow bits suspended in the milk. But mother insisted that we drink. She went through all the trouble of pouring the glasses for us. It would be wasteful if we refused to drink what she gave. We placed our lips to the glass rims and sipped slowly, our eyes raised to mother. She nodded her head as we drank. She encouraged the sipping. She mouthed, More, more, more. She made us drink until the glasses were empty. The milk’s sourness was worse in our mouths. It was on our gums and teeth. We licked the taste from our lips. We swallowed what was left. We sipped the remaining bubbles. The dairy settled in our stomachs heavily. Mother nodded her head. She took the glasses away. The yowling came again. It swooped and fell. It struck our faces. Our stomachs gurgled with discontentment. Mother crawled forward. She crawled fast, the yowling pursuing her, and her limbs rotated around one another. She pressed an ear to one stomach, then another. She listened to our digestive troubles. The grumbling grew louder. It was almost worse than the yowling which raised in tone until it was again a howling. Mother opened her mouth and blew into our belly buttons. The howling was in the soft breath. She howled into our bodies. She grabbed our hands to her throat and howled into our palms. She howled while looking up at our faces. She howled into our ears. She howled until she fainted upon the floor, pale in the face, limp in the limbs. And still, the howling went on. The howling came from her and from the empty chairs and from the windows. The howling came snaking up from the basement. The howling was produced in the back of the oven. The howling grew and grew. It was so high-pitched that we thought our ears would bleed. We called to one another but the howling overtook our voices. Even our screams were faint. Then father came home and slammed a door. Then the howling stopped immediately. Then the house was so silent, we were desperate to yell. We took turns in the bathroom, vomiting whatever in our stomach needed to be vomited.

 

 

ALANA I CAPRIA is the author of the story collection Wrapped in Red (Montag press), the novel Hooks and Slaughterhouse (Montag Press), and the chapbooks Organ Meat, Killing Me (Turtleneck Press) and Lilith (dancing girl press). She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Capria resides in Northern New Jersey with her husband. Her website is http://alanaicapria.com.