by Kenneth Schneyer
Liza can either help Ellie clean up the mess she's just made of her cereal or help Bess clean up the mess she's just made of herself. Her nose dictates the answer; grimly, she chooses Bess, taking the old woman by the arm and steering her towards the bathroom.
"Moooooooom!" complains Ellie from behind.
"Don't call me 'Mom'," says Liza to the girl. "Do the best you can; use the towels on the refrigerator handle. I'll be right back to help you when I'm done."
Bess allows herself to be led as if she were a calf on a rope. The set of her mouth betrays that she knows she's done something wrong but has too much dignity to say so. Liza helps Bess undress, gets her into the shower, uses the hand-held nozzle to clean her off, wraps her in a towel, discards the mess, throws the soiled clothes in the wash, quickly disinfects the shower, and finds something else for her to wear. Bess tolerates all of this without complaint or thanks, looking off in another direction.
By the time Liza returns to the kitchen, Ellie has finished cleaning up the cereal, using too many paper towels which are now piled up in the trash can, not the cloth towels Liza had in mind. Ellie's trying to make herself a sandwich for her lunch bag, tongue between her teeth, brow furrowed, uneven lumps of peanut butter interspersed with craters and rips on the bread. Liza can read the desperation; she moves in to take over.
"Thank you," says Ellie in a small voice.
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"Liza's Home" is roughly 5340 words.
Kenneth Schneyer's fiction has appeared in Nature Physics, Odyssey: Adventures in Science, Niteblade, FLASHSHOT, Nanoism, Thaumatrope, and the anthology Misfit Mirror. He is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop. During his strange career, he has worked as an actor, corporate lawyer, dishwasher, judicial clerk, typist, IT project manager, and Assistant Dean of a technology school. He was born in Michigan but now lives in Rhode Island with his wife (ritual artist Janice Okoomian), their children, and a narcissistic cat. He blogs, sort of, at ken-schneyer.livejournal.com. See his current bibliography at writertopia.com/profiles/…">writertopia.com/profiles/….