» Fiction


Your mama drops you off at five o’clock, rolls in with an extra-large suitcase full of clothing for all seasons, a blue balloon nightlight, a patchwork baby blanket, coloring books, picture books, an unopened box of crayons. On her arm dangles another bag with blue toothbrush, blue toothpaste, your special blue cup, the blue multivitamins you take before bed. And at her side, you—a round, far-gazed boy, one hand clutching the fabric of your mama’s jeans, the other gripped around the snout of a stuffed pig in a checkered waistcoat.


“Any problems,” your mama says, “just call.”


“Yes.” In her shadow, we both keep still while she frets and fidgets, takes out a notebook crowded with tightly coiled numbers. She was like this as a little girl too, your mama—my daughter. All fluttering hands and nervous glances. “I’ve made up your old bedroom,” I say. “Logan can sleep there.”


She tears a sheet from the notepad, folds and presses it to my chest. “There’s where you can reach me,” she says. “And that one’s Doreen, his regular sitter. And Mrs. Bogart; she’s got a spare key if there’s anything you need from the house.”


Ink seeps through the page, blackens my thumb and forefinger. “Don’t worry,” I say.


Your mama plucks you off her leg and guides your hand towards mine. She says, “I’ll pick him up Monday morning. Before preschool.”


“Yes,” I say. “Don’t worry.”


For an instant, her face becomes pinched, punctured with tension before she breathes and nods. She kneels, cups the side of your head, and kisses you goodbye.


The tears begin after she drives away. A lost look, a panicked look, and then a wail that sounds like a ship taking its first voyage away from land. Water plunges past the hull, a huge exclamation, an oil-drum symphony between my ears. You pound a tiny fist on the window, twist backward in my arms. So, we go to your room—her old room—and I barricade the door on stiff-jointed knees.


Mama! Mama! Mama!


Shriek and shriek until you’re too tired and I can hold you again. There’s a little wind-up music box on the shelf—it plays “Singin’ in the Rain,” and you like that. Twist the handle round and round, sit sprawled on the old Parisian rug sniffling the last sobs away while I go downstairs to make peanut-butter banana crackers. Your mama used to eat those the way a magpie eats ladybirds.



Before I turn off the lights, before I leave the room, you reach across your bed—from beneath the cotton-wool blankets already kicked into a tempest—and say “Balloon.” I plug in the nightlight. Your eyes see further than mine, to something inside the blue Kool-Aid glow.



Almost dawn now, no orange on the horizon but at least a paling of the darkness. Stars begin to fade. Air rises off the ground cold and thick, like a glass of milk fresh out of the fridge on a summer afternoon.


And the front door groans open.


I can see you from the window, Logan. I can see you teeter down the front path and onto the deserted road, little feet almost too round to balance on—that stuffed pig under your arm better dressed for the cool morning than you.


I run.


I run and leave the front door wide. Feet naked like yours, over wet grass, past the post box with its tin flag rusted upright. I run fast and hard enough to see just as you dash across the neighbors’ lawn and behind their car.


“Logan!” I yell. And then “Don’t worry. Don’t worry!”


You keep going, leave footprints in the begonias, footprints in the chrysanthemums. They’re shallow impressions, only the size of my palm. At the end of the yard, you squeeze between two loose fence boards, no wider than the stump of a cherry tree. “Logan!” I yell. The stuffed pig lies grinning, plush-and-tumble on the ground.


Run down a back alley, through another yard, and then another. The footprints this time are puppy-dog small, brown markings over a stranger’s driveway. They wobble towards an accidental patch of trees, a scraggly bunch of growth that the men with cement mixers and trucks of rubble forgot to chop down when they built this place forty years ago. Fallen branches murmur at my ankles, but I can see you now. I get closer and you get smaller, smaller—small enough to fit inside one of my winter galoshes.


“Logan!” I yell. Nearby, you laugh—because it’s all a game, cat and mouse, grandmother and grandchild—you laugh and dart between the brambles of a knee-high brown bush. Footprints span the length of my thumbnail. Thousands of inchworms hang from invisible threads, and I thrust them aside like tasseled bed curtains. Now the grass wavers where you weave through it; now it doesn’t because you’ve grown too small for even that. You laugh and laugh and laugh, and I follow that sound, follow it around twisted oak trunks, bowing evergreens, and skinny matchstick saplings. Mayflies scatter like wrong-way raindrops. Rooks chitter and fling themselves at the sky.


“Logan.” I don’t yell this time because laughter fills greenery. Somewhere close, overhead. “Logan.”


Rising light catches the trees in faint silhouette. I look up and there you are, caught in a spider’s web, caught in strands of leftover moonlight, laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing.



In my hands, fall asleep again. I carry you back: out of the trees, across the alley, through the fence, over the lawn. You grow bigger as we go, filling one palm and then two, filling the crook of my elbow and then my arms. I ease you into bed, spread blankets smooth.


Tomorrow, when she comes to pick you up, your mother will look head-to-toe at you, at me. She’ll say, “Everything go alright?” And I’ll say “Yes alright. No need to worry.” Maybe you won’t say anything. Maybe you’ll laugh.


Steely spider threads tangle your hair. I pluck them free one-by-one, lay them on the pillow while you sleep until your face is crowned with silver.


Sarah Danielle Pitman

Sarah Danielle Pitman is a graduate of the creative writing program at the University of Victoria. Her work has appeared with Reflex Fiction, Vino Buono Productions, This Side of West, and the Submittable Blog. In addition, Sarah’s one-act play Inside the Box was selected for the Cultch Theatre’s Ignite! Youth Festival and received a full production in May 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia.