written by Samantha Hodge. Samantha (she/her) is a Canadian exchange student from UBC studying in her fourth year of a very long Creative Writing and Computer Science degree. She enjoys writing almost as much as she loves reading (and cats). Her work has previously been published in Icebreakers Lit and she is likely huddled up in a blanket tip-tapping away at her keyboard at this very moment.

My mother loves her phones. She’ll sit, twirling the spiralled cord, or splay out on her bed phone pressed to her ear. She’s got one installed in every room of the house.

She keeps phone numbers in a little box of record cards, each one printed in neat ink. She carries it with her as she wanders the house and leaves it in odd places when she departs. When I arrive home and she’s not there, it’s a phantom of her presence.

Whenever she’s bored, my mother will rifle through the cards and play a game of who is willing to pick up. The only card I’ve ever seen my mother get rid of was my dads after she kicked him out of the house. 

I watched her take a match to it in the sink from the stairwell. She cracked the window open to stave off the fire alarm and stayed there until the last wisp of smoke curled out to follow dad down the drive. Then she did the dishes, so I wasn’t even able to save the ashes.

Her favourite victim is Aunt Caroline. When my mother starts dialing, I creep from my bedroom to the office and ease the phone from its cradle. 

Their conversations usually go something like this:

““Oh, dear Lina,”” my mother exclaims. ““You can’t imagine the day I’ve had.”” 

““Lord save you, what is it now?””

““I’ll never leave this house again. I slipped coming back from the grocer’s and everything went flying! It absolutely ruined my hair—I’d just gotten it done Friday if you remember—and I cracked the eggs something horrible. Might you be able to run some over for me?””

““It’s a two-hour drive, get more yourself.””

My mother sighs delicately into the receiver. 

““I’m simply too overwhelmed. Besides it’s not like Peter will miss you. That secretary is keeping his attention quite diverted. He’s bound to forget your anniversary again this year, so you might as well start spending the apology money now. How many times has it slipped his mind? I seem to have forgotten.””

I hold my breath in these thorned silences, terrified one of them might hear me. Aunt Caroline breaks first.

““Six,”” she snaps. “Though you would certainly know more about spending. I heard you had to beg another mortgage payment off of father. How long until he also cuts you off?””

“Yes, well,”” my mother affects nonchalance. ““We all have our little vices. Buy yourself something nice but do drop the groceries at four. Ta.””

The line buzzes, disconnected. Then my mother dials again, a new target located.

““Darling mother, I hear you’ve been chit chatting with little Lina.”” And she’s off again.

My mother was the perfect picture of a woman with a charmed life. Beautiful and richly married, with a boy that shut up and smiled when prompted and the jealousy of all the women she’d shop with. That all imploded when dad left. 

Technically she kicked him out, but he already had one foot out the door. He couldn’t stand her towards the end, and he’s the only person who’s ever really done something about it. I admired that, even though it hurt.

He left me with only a number, and my mother burned that as well.

I asked her a couple years later for his phone number.

““I just want to call him,”” I said as she was touching up her lipstick, getting ready to head out the door.

““I don’t have time for this Charlie,”” she said.

““You called him every day at work, you’ve got to remember at least part of it. It started with a two, didn’t it?””

““Charlie.”” A note of displeasure as she finally turned away from the mirror.

““He’s my dad,”” I pleaded.

Her eyes skated right past me and onto the scarf rack. 

““I simply can’t help you, Charlie, I’ve forgotten it. Now I don’t want to hear about this again, okay? Okay.””

Then she patted me on the head and breezed out the door.

Another thing about my mother: she is the one that taught me how to smile.

““Chin up, Charlie. Smile.”” She always tapped my cheeks with her manicured nails. Whether I was crying or bunching up my forehead in a scowl, chin up, smile.

Smile for the other parents to coo at. Smile for the family photographer that’s your birthday gift this year because I want some nice pictures for the mantle. Smile for me. Always for me.

Everyone in my family takes my mother’s calls. 

Oh, they’ll tsk at family gatherings for indulging her, but they can never resist being able to shove another barb in over the phone. As if words will ever make her bleed. 

I’ve never understood them but then, even dad couldn’t really hurt her. While she was gone for her hair appointment though, I did better. 

I started with the phone in the front hall. A knife from the kitchen sliced through the phone cord, my heel crumbled the receiver. I took a candlestick to the plastic casing, beat in the little bells. The phone’s innards were ripped out and scattered on the floor like a hundred rose petals for my mother to return to. Then, I started on the rest. Like I said, she’s never let the insults get to her but she felt this. Above anything else, my mother loves her phones.

Image: Untitled 1 by PIGSY

PIGSY, an Irish artist, creates genuine and unapologetic assured expressionist art that reflects his personal journey.