There is a Season

Fiction by Emily Addis

All of my children turned into rocks. Just plain rocks. You’d hardly notice them. I mean, you wouldn’t notice them; I would, because I’m their mother. Lucky for them, too, because if anyone else had found them they’d still be outside right now, getting run over by cars and pissed on by dogs. But no, of course I wouldn’t leave them out there. I have them all back home with me now, and without any arguments or special cooking it’s actually been really nice. I haven’t even told Wilson yet. I’m just waiting to see if he figures it out.

The first one I found was James. It was last weekend while the asshole next door was leaf blowing his driveway. James and I were standing on the porch and it was so loud we couldn’t even have a conversation. See, there was a really good sale on peanut butter at Food Time and I bought too much– Wilson doesn’t eat it anymore and I only eat a little bit on a spoon because it’s got a lot of fat and I’m working on my diet. So I bought too much peanut butter for just us, but also it was the good kind, chunky, and I wanted James to take some of it, so he stopped by on his way to work. I gave him a bag with six jars of peanut butter and he was standing on the porch step saying something which I couldn’t hear because of Mister Dickhead-Over-There and his goddamn leaf blower. I swear, this guy, he cut down all his trees, so what does he need a leaf blower for? But there he is, every Saturday, carrying it around with his stupid safety goggles and ear protectors, like, oh look at me, I’m a big man with a big tool! So important! It’s just a penis thing, it’s so obvious. He couldn’t even hear me yelling at him so I had to use sign language. There are some universal hand signs, you know.

He pretended not to see me flipping him off, but I know he got the message. Then I turned back to James and he just wasn’t there. The bag of peanut butter was on the step and his car was still in the driveway, but he was gone. And there was this rock on the porch that was not there before. I’m sure because it was right near the peanut butter, and big as a tennis ball. I kind of picked it up without thinking and carried it around with me to the backyard looking for James. Then I brought it inside and put it on the table while I called Chastity. Or Charity? I can never remember; I call her Chesty anyway. Of course Chesty said James wasn’t home and she thought he was at work. She doesn’t know anything, that girl. Not the sharpest tack. I mean, it’s not her brains people notice, is it? I said tell James he forgot his peanut butter. When I hung up on her, that’s when I actually saw it. Because if you’re looking at the rock from this side, it has his exact profile: the long nose like Wilson’s, the good chin from my side of the family, and even the weird flat part at the back of his head from sleeping wrong as a baby. It was all James.

I’m not crazy, and this seems like the kind of thing where if I told somebody about it, it would sound crazy, so I didn’t tell anyone. I carried him up to his old room and let him sit on the dresser with the curtains open so he could see that goofy birdhouse he made, which I actually wanted Wilson to take down last year but he never did. Later on, Wilson came in complaining about the bag of peanut butter he tripped over on the porch, so I went out to get it and saw James’s car was gone. I don’t know if Chesty came and took it or what, but I didn’t say anything to Wilson. He was already mad about the peanut butter.

I found Samantha a couple of days later. It was her birthday and she wasn’t returning any of my calls. I said something and Wilson said, Why don’t you just go over there? So I did. Her van was in the driveway and I sat in my car dialing and redialing her phone, but she didn’t pick up. And then I saw why. Her van was parked with one tire on the lawn, and she was right there beside it, sticking up out of the grass. She was more round than James– not surprising since she’s been putting on weight ever since she had a kid. She’s going to swell up like my sister if she doesn’t watch it. The shape was one thing, but the color of the rock really gave her away. It had this silly pinkness, which is how she looks: she’s easy to embarrass. And it had a rough surface, too, and you know she’s always had bad skin and she won’t use the cream I bought her. She’s so stubborn. I got out of my car and I picked her up out of the grass. She was heavy and she was cold. I hope she wasn’t out there all night. I’m not crazy. I did go and ring her doorbell. Her van was there, she didn’t answer her phone, and I rang the doorbell three times but no one came.

I couldn’t leave her out in the cold so I brought her back home with me. On the car ride I told her about James and at home I put her on the hearth in the den to warm up. Wilson was there too actually, but just snoring in front of the TV. By the time I made dinner I had decided not to tell him about Samantha right away, either. And anyway, he didn’t ask.

Then there was yesterday. Michelle was here; I can’t remember why. Maybe she didn’t say. It doesn’t matter; she was here, sitting in the kitchen not helping as usual, just watching me cook. I had to make almond bars for Daniel. He’s the new kid on our garbage route. He hasn’t tried my almond bars yet, but I told him they’re famous. Reggie, the other kid who used to have this route, he said they were bussin. I really liked Reggie. He always turned the can upside down when it was raining, and if something spilled out, he would pick it up. He really cared about doing a good job. Not everybody does. Most people don’t care about anything, in fact. I told the new kid, Daniel, I said I hope you’re as good as Reggie! He just laughed.

We don’t really have that much trash anymore. Some weeks I don’t even take the can down to the street unless there’s something in it that really stinks, like meat or fruit. Of course Wilson never takes the trash down, even if I tell him to. He’ll say he’s going to do it and then forget. But anyway, I had just put the almond bars in the oven and when I looked up, Michelle was staring at me in the strangest way, like my tits were out or I was having a stroke or something. I said what? and she was gone. She vanished right in front of me.

Of course I still went around the table to look for her. I thought maybe she fainted and fell off the chair. I did that once, and it hurt like hell. Left a stupid looking bruise on my face, too. But Michelle had not fallen. She was fine. Still in the chair, even. She’s the smallest, just an ordinary little nothing. A pebble. Wilson could kick her across the room and never notice. She’s up here on the window sill now, so I can talk to her while I’m washing the dishes. And do you know something strange? We’ve talked more in the last twenty-four hours than we have in the last twenty-four years. It’s really been great.

I checked on Samantha this morning and she feels a lot warmer. I brought James in to sit beside her, so they can catch up without Sam’s kid and Chesty’s boobs around to distract them. Tonight if there’s a good movie on, I might bring Michelle in there too, and we can all watch something together like we used to. And I don’t think I need to tell Wilson, or anybody, after all. I mean, it’s not exactly a problem, is it?

I don’t know how many times I told my kids: don’t get married, don’t get pregnant, just get out of here. I wish somebody told me that when I was young. I could’ve been sailing the world on a banana boat instead of driving this forklift up and down all day, and coming home to Trina talking about peanut butter and what kind of cookies the goddamn garbage man likes.

She buys ten jars of peanut butter just because she’s got a coupon. She bakes enough cookies to feed an orphanage because one guy – one time – said he liked them. And now she’s collecting rocks, apparently, because a new one shows up in my den every other day. I asked her this morning what’s with the rocks and she acted like I’d been snooping in her panty drawer.

Tell you later, she said.

Christ almighty. I don’t even want to know, I said. I just want to sit on the couch without getting gravel up my ass.

She says: Leave them alone. They’re not bothering you.

Trina, I said. Who the fuck is ‘they’?

Well, he finally asked. I shouldn’t have told him right then, because he was mad about them being on the couch and he never listens when he’s like that. I should have made him wait until he was in a better mood. But I tried to show him James. I held him up so his profile was perfectly obvious. Wilson just played dumb. I don’t think he even looked that carefully. So then I lined all three of them up on the mantle and I gave him a huge hint. I said How many children do we have? He started laughing when I pointed out how heavy Sam is and about the flat part of James’s head. He thought it was funny that I thought the rocks looked like the kids, and I told him they were the kids, actually. I was pissed because he was laughing at me so I told him how I found James and Samantha and how Michelle changed right here in the kitchen. And he did call me crazy. I said, Oh really? When’s the last time you talked to your son?

That got him, I could tell. He likes to pretend they’re close. He had a little hissy fit and stomped into the kitchen and tried to call James and Chesty’s house and nobody answered. He called them four times. Then he called Samantha’s and got her machine. Then he called Michelle and it just rang and rang and rang.

I couldn’t help gloating a little. I held James up again and turned him from side to side, like: Do you see it now, dumbass?

Oh, I see it alright. I always knew she had some screws loose, and she knows I’m not a fucking repairman. I told her to get in the car. I told her we’ll go see James right now. We’ll go see all three of them if we have to, so she can see what a nutjob she’s turning into.

She wouldn’t go. She says, They’ve been here with me all week. You’re the one who needs to see them. And then she waved that fucking rock in my face again and I took it. I took all her stupid rocks and I went out back and threw them in the yard.

She said I could have killed them and the way she was screaming, the neighbors probably thought I was killing her. She was absolutely out of her mind and calling me a bastard and a son of a bitch and every other thing she could think of.

I said, Trina, you’re fucking crazy. I’m going to go get them so you can see. And I got the car keys and went to the front door.

Then she says, No. She says: I’m going to get them. And she got the flashlight and went out the back.

It took awhile but I found Sam near the fence and James under the azalea.

Don’t worry, I told them. If we get a divorce it won’t be your fault.

But I couldn’t find Michelle. And Wilson didn’t come back either. Probably because he went to all their houses and realized I’m right and he just can’t admit when he’s wrong. His dad was the same way, you know. Men are like that. It started raining and I had to come in, even though I don’t want Michelle out there alone all night in the wet and the cold. Before I came inside I called out: I’m sorry, honey! He’s just an asshole! I hope I was loud enough. I hope she heard me.

I carried the other two with me to the kitchen, the bedroom, even the bathroom, because I’m not leaving them anywhere by themselves until Wilson comes to his senses. And I tried to go to bed, but I was really just laying there listening for the car to pull in the driveway. After an hour I decided to make popcorn balls for the kids, so we all went into the kitchen and I set them beside the stove to watch the marshmallows melting in the butter. I was talking to them while I stirred, but I don’t think they were listening.

Are you cold? I asked Samantha. Here, you can sit on the microwave while the popcorn pops. She looked sulky, like when I used to make her wear a jacket on Halloween, but I moved her there anyway for her own good.

So James, I said, going back to the stove, do you think Chesty has a new boyfriend yet? It was just a joke, obviously, but he didn’t seem to think it was funny.

Jesus. Lighten up, I told him, dumping the popcorn into the pot of melted marshmallows. Think about how Sam feels. Her kid’s deadbeat dad has to finally change a diaper!

He didn’t think that was funny either.

When I took Sam off the microwave top, she wasn’t any warmer. I felt her rough face with the back of my hand. Cold.

Samantha? I wasn’t sure if she could hear me. Sam? Hey, popcorn balls! They’re your favorite.

I put her and James on the table along with the pot and a big plate. I stuck my hands under the faucet to get them wet and then I started scooping up the popcorn and making the balls, which I was only doing for the kids – I don’t even like popcorn; it gets stuck in my teeth. They know I’m doing it for them, they know I’ve been up all night, they know I’m worried about their sister. And yet they sit there staring at me, cold and blank, like I’m the enemy and they’re goddamn prisoners of war.

Fine. I decided to ignore them for a while. See how they like it.

So I finished all the popcorn balls and I just put the plate in the fridge without offering them any. The sun was coming up and it looked like the rain was over. I left the two of them on the table, got my coat and went out to the backyard again to look for Michelle. Except this time I just stood by the door and stared at the grass and the mud. I don’t exactly know why. Then I heard the car, finally, in the driveway.

I hurried back to the kitchen to gather up the kids before Wilson saw them. And you wouldn’t believe those little brats! They were huddled there nose to nose, thick as thieves, but they went quiet as soon as I came into the room. I absolutely hate that. It is so fucking rude. I told them both I did not appreciate their shitty attitudes one bit.

It hurt my feelings, to be honest. I turned away from them so they wouldn’t see my eyes getting all teary and I saw Wilson through the kitchen window. He hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet. He was just sitting there in the driveway, alone. I watched him for a long time, until he opened the car door and stood up. Then I wiped my face and got the coffee going, and I told the kids: At least be nice to your father. This isn’t going to be easy for him, you know.

Emily Addis

NC native Emily Addis currently lives in the micropolis of Marion, where she’s hard at work finishing her novel for children about a cockroach society living in an elementary school library. She also works in an elementary school library, but that is just a coincidence. When she’s not writing, Emily enjoys growing garlic, tracking box turtles, and waiting for the weather to change. Reach her at: