Gabriel Blackwell

Though her jaw ached and her teeth were already sore, the mother, forty-five, wanted to celebrate after her orthodontist appointment—her last tightening!—but before she could finish pouring the glass of Pinot, her son, startling her—had he not gone to school? why was he home?—spoke up from the darkened nook. He'd done it, he said. She'd thought he was finally going to fess up about the liquor he'd obviously been stealing from the cabinet above the refrigerator, but no. On the phone with 911, the mother told the dispatcher that the girl, the one who'd been missing, the one everybody had been looking for—she was under the laundry room. Her laundry room. Her son . . . he wanted to turn himself in. Before placing the call, she'd told the teenager to stay right where he was, not to move an inch. Not to come any closer. Now, holding the phone in her left hand, she watched him watching her. She remembered, for some reason, his seventh birthday party, when he'd thrown a golf ball at her head and the rest of the children had started crying. He'd broken her cheekbone, but it wasn't the pain that had started her tears, it was the placid look on his face, in contrast with all of the other children and herself, reddened and flustered and upset. She would later think this was the same calm the boy's father had displayed the last time she had seen him, in the middle of the day, on a syndicated entertainment news program, sitting next to the star of his latest movie, yet another superhero story about how evil was unstoppable until a single virtuous and all-powerful demi-god came along to save the helpless populace. He'd looked sick, she'd thought, underneath the fake tan and the silly-looking highlights, like the life had gone out of him. Now, as she heard the dispatcher telling her, again, to stay on the phone until the police showed up—there were none in the area, but they were on their way—she worried that the cork was still stuck to the end of the corkscrew, and that the knife block was closer to her son than it was to her. The fans are really going to be happy, the star had said to the reporter while her ex-husband looked on. I don't think there's ever really been a faithful adaptation until now.

Gabriel Blackwell is the author of four books, the most recent of which is MADELEINE E. His short fictions and essays have appeared in many issues of Conjunctions, in Tin House, Puerto del Sol, DIAGRAM, the Kenyon Review, Post Road, and elsewhere. He is the editor of The Collagist.

Read his postcard.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of DJOXFUTURA.

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