She is angry sure with me.
By now she knows sure I’m here. When she’s looked in all the other places she always knows I’m here and this is where she looks next.
But I’m here anyway. Here is out of her wayest. Here is not under her feet, making her mad at me, always under her feet is what I am when I’m not here or in some other hiding place where she usually looks first, before she remembers here and then looks here and finds me.
I don’t have many hiding places for our apartment is so small and she knows them all by now. But sometimes she forgets to look here and then, after a while, she forgets me, too. Some of the time, not most of the time. Most of the time she finds me, even if I’m here.
It’s very quiet in here, and outside, too. I listen really hard to know when she moves so I can be ready for her when she comes. It’s best to be ready for her when she comes.
Something tickles my face. It’s a dress. It’s her long blue one, the one with the cocoa stain I think that’s tickling me. But I mustn’t move. I must be quieter than the quietest mouse and I mustn’t move. That would give me away, tell her sure I am here. Wake her up and make her come here and find me.
She’s not in her bed this time. She’s on the floor. Tired sure. Tired of me under her feet all the time. Exhausted, she told me once. That’s what I make her. It’s got something to do with wearing her out.
I have to pee, though. I really have to pee.
And now I’m too late sure to go to school. It’s the second day in a row now I’ve not gone to school. Mrs. Ferguson will wonder where I am and will call her so tired on the floor and wake her up sure, the phone rings so loud.
It hasn’t today, though, for it’s already rung two or three or four times, I don’t know I haven’t counted the times, though I know how to count, that’s one of the things I do the best is what she’s told Mom, Mrs. Ferguson. And now Mom’s on the floor outside the bathroom and I really have to pee though I can’t for she’s in the way and I’ll wake her up sure if I try to go. She can smell me, she says, when I come too near and that wakes her up, she’s told me that more than once, though I haven’t counted those times either.
I have to get this dress away from my face, it really tickles, and, oh no, I made a noise. A shoe noise. I must have tipped it. Now I must be extra stiller than a mouse, even stiller than a chair because she must have heard that. She’s got very good ears, when she wants to. Even hears what I’m thinking she said once, and that must sure take very good ears.
I’m so still I’m not even breathing, and for a little while I forget that I have to pee. I listen and listen harder for a noise from her but there is none, I can’t hear any noise come back from her, she must be really tired sure not to wake up when the shoe tipped over, she’s heard noises like that before and found me right away like a cat I saw on television once finding a mouse just like that.
And now I breathe again, and now not again. I listen with my entire head for some noise from her but there is nothing. The shoe didn’t wake her up. She’ll be mad sure if I wake her up. Really mad. And for tipping over her shoe.
I really have to pee, though. Really badly.
When I listen this hard I can hear cars outside on the street. They stop outside for the red light and start up again when it goes green and stop again when the light comes back red so the cars coming the other way can go. The lights never stop. It goes back and forth from red to green to red to green and the cars stop and go. I can hear them stop and go so that light is still sure going back and forth red to green and back.
And there is a door opening and then closing. I know which door. I have good ears for doors. It’s Mr. Matthews across the way and he’s off to work now leaving Puddles alone all day. She’s a good pup he says and knows where to do it on the paper where he can clean it up when he comes home. I wish I had some paper in here to do it on.
But why does he call her Puddles if she doesn’t make any? I’ve wondered that but I always forget to ask him. I must remember to ask him next time I see him.
Here comes the elevator to collect Mr. Matthews. It’s an old and tired elevator sure for it groans a lot. And then when it stops it finishes groaning and sighs instead as if coming all the way up here from all the way down there was a lot of hard work, which I’m sure it is for an elevator now that I come to think about it, for the elevator is big and must be heavy even when it’s empty. I’m sure it is for it’s a lot of work even for me, who am not very big and nowhere as heavy as the elevator, to walk the stairs all the way up here from all the way down there when the elevator is too tired to work at all, so I understand him. He can groan all he likes. Must be a dull life though, being an elevator.
Mr. Matthews has a photograph that’s in a nice, silvery frame of his wife on a wall in his apartment and another photograph in an even nicer frame on the same wall of his little darling, he calls her. His little darling is a girl a little older than I am with long blond hair, that she took, and he says “she” with a voice that means the lady in the photograph on the wall he was once married to when she, the same voice, moved to California, which is as far away from New York that you can get without drowning he once told me.
He asked me once where my daddy was and I said I didn’t know. Mommy didn’t know either, she said, but I shouldn’t have asked sure, she hit me so hard.
Oh, no. There goes the phone again. It rings and is turned up loud, and now she’ll wake up sure and then soon she’ll look for me and then she’ll find me and then I’ll be sorry.
Oh, how it’s ringing. Two rings now. Three, four, five, six, seven, eight. I didn’t lose count that time. There is no number nine ring. It’s stopped now. All quiet again. I don’t hear Mom. Exhausted, sure. Even after all those rings, all eight of them.
My knees ache from sitting like this. I have to move but I can’t but most of all I have to pee, so badly.
I listen harder than ever to hear if she moves. Maybe she is just slow waking up. I hear nothing though. She’s quieter than me, sleeping hard sure if she didn’t hear the phone and all those rings, eight. Like a log I’ve heard Mr. Matthews say once, sleeping like one when one doesn’t wake up easily, not even when the phone rings eight loud times.
I really really have to pee.
And I have to move. I have to stretch my legs, especially the left one, the knee hurts so bad. Just a little. Oh, no, the shoe tips again, no that’s not the same one, it’s the other shoe. It makes a noise too but not as loud as the phone sure.
Enough though to make me hold my breath again. I listen so hard I should hear her tiniest noise, but there is none. She’s still sleeping. Really tired sure. Quieter than a chair.
But I just have to pee. Really really really have to pee.
I open the door a crack. Just a tiny, tiny crack and that didn’t make a noise at all and I can see her feet through the crack. Both of them. One shoe on, one of her comfortable ones, on the leg that isn’t bent. The other foot, the one at the end of her bent leg, has no shoe. I see her toes through the stocking. They’re pointed and squashed looking. She paints her toe nails, but the paint that I can see on the big toe of the one foot that doesn’t have a shoe on is cracked and chipped like it was long since she done it. I see a bit of her hand too and I smell vomit through the crack, her vomit sure, I’ve smelled it before.
She’s crazy tired sure for not waking up when that phone rang, all those times. Still asleep.
Maybe I can.
I push the door a little more and it screams as if I’m hurting it and it’ll give me away now sure. It squeaks when you push it slow, I should have remembered that. But I really have to pee.
Push it open all at once is better and I do, and now it’s open. Now I see all of her. She does not feel good sure, I can tell. Her face is dark, the kind of dark that makes her feel really bad when she wakes up. I know for I remember how she feels waking up with a face like that and I must extra keep out of her way then sure.
I am crazy brave or crazy stupid but I really have to pee, and I stretch both of my legs and rub my knees to stop them hurting and then I ease out from under the blue dress with the cocoa stain which you can hardly see, but she beat me good for it anyway although it wasn’t me spilled it. It rustles and the floor creaks a little at first, and I stop and look and listen. She didn’t move. Then I stand up and tip toe across the floor and then across her one leg that isn’t bent and I’m doing it very quietly for she doesn’t move.
There’s her other shoe, against the stove. Another tip toe and I’m making no noise at all. I’m good at tip toe. I can see her face better from here. Her mouth is open and her tongue is hanging out a little. She will feel very very bad when she wakes up sure, I can tell her mouth is so dry sure.
I step over her arm with her hand that almost points to the bathroom as if making sure I’ll find it and will do my business in there.
I can’t close the door though, her other arm’s in the way so I’ll have to do my business with the door open which I haven’t done since she beat me bad for having no manners, I’ve closed the door ever since. But now I can’t close it, for if I do I’ll wake her up sure.
Oh, my, it feels so good, I really had to pee, but it makes a noise into the water trickling and splashing so loud that I have to put my hand down to catch it so it doesn’t splash. It’s nice and warm and hardly makes any noise now.
There’s no paper. Not in the holder and none on the floor either. So I wipe myself and my hand on the towel. She would kill me if she saw. She almost did once, another once when we didn’t have any paper, and she taught me a lesson good that time, what towels are for and what they are not for. But the wiping is quiet and would not wake her sure if the phone didn’t wake her so I use the towel anyway. Crazy brave.
I look at her again long before I tip toe back to hide. I can’t see her face from here, just her hair. She’s turned away almost as if she doesn’t want to look at me even with her eyes closed. Then I tip toe over her arm that points to the bathroom and then her leg and then she moves a little. Or did she? I stop absolutely still. If she looks up now she’ll know it was me woke her and she’ll be mad sure and come for me to teach me more lessons about being quiet and not be under her feet, constantly.
I stand stiller than a stone person, looking at her. She doesn’t move. She’s like another stone person. Maybe she didn’t move after all, maybe I just imagined that, imagined the worst, crazy scared about it.
I stand stiller than the stoniest person and look at her head. I can see half her face from here, but mostly her hair, not very brushed and not very clean, I can tell. I make another tip toe and now I can see her face again and it’s still dark and still has the tongue falling out and she looks mad even when she sleeps like a stone person she’s so tired sure. Exhausted.
She’s not moving at all, so I probably did imagine. Crazy scared to imagine things. I tip toe back to the closet.
I close the door as quiet as I can, it squeaks only once, and not very loud. Then I listen, really hard. It’s easier to listen when you don’t have to pee. I didn’t wake her sure and I’m safe still.
It feels much better now. Even my knees feel better. What would peeing have to do with that? No, don’t be silly. Nothing. I’ve been tip toeing is what did it sure.
Now the elevator groans again. Groans with its whole throat that is as long as the building is tall. It’s back for someone else, or it’s bringing someone. If he’s coming for our floor, he’s bringing someone sure for I heard no doors open and close here. Then it stops and sighs as his doors slide open which I can hear but I’m sure Mom can’t, it’s not that loud. Not loud enough to wake her sure.
I hear feet stepping from the elevator in our direction. Maybe it’s the Thompsons next door, although I doubt that. I never heard them leave. And the feet stop. By our door.
Oh, no, that’s the doorbell. It’s the loudest sound. Louder than the phone ringing, louder than pee splashing sure. The loudest. And then again. It’s the school sure. I missed going yesterday, hiding here, and now again today, they wonder where I am sure.
And then again, the loudest doorbell. Mom is so tired though she doesn’t hear. Boy she must have had a lot to drink.
It’s Mr. Dunn come to get me. I recognize his voice. He’s done that before, after mom’s taught me a lesson. He is a nice man. Old with white hair.
“Mrs. Michael,” he says again, and now he bangs on the door too. Crazy loud. If that doesn’t wake her.
He bangs and rings and then he stops banging and ringing and saying her name crazy loud. Then I hear his feet walk back to the elevator.
It’s no good for Mr. Dunn to come here. It is an embarrassment she calls it, and she teaches me what that means when he’s gone. Now she’s awake sure, she could not have slept through that, and now I sit and just wait for her to rip open the door and look down at me, huge, mad. To teach me this lesson again because I obviously didn’t get it the other times.
But she doesn’t and I wait and I listen to the cars and to the elevator and to a radio in Mrs. Peterson’s apartment upstairs that she’s just turned on. She likes country music, Mrs. Peterson. Her husband used to play, she says. Then the country song stops and another one starts. And then it stops too and nothing else starts. She’s probably turned off the radio, is going out to do some shopping sure, or something.
Mom likes country music, too.
I wait long. Mom’s tired sure, crazy tired, cause she doesn’t wake up.
I hear the elevator groan again. Louder this time, as if full of stone persons this time, heavy. Hard work to lift all this way. It groans and then stops groaning at our floor again. And it sighs the doors open and more feet than the last time step out onto the landing. They’ve come for me sure now, to get me back to school today. The feet say so.
And now the doorbell says so as well. And the banging. And her name, loud, crazy loud. Mom doesn’t answer though, not a word. Crazy tired.
Someone has a key. It’s the janitor sure, he’s come with Mr. Dunn though he should be minding his own business says Mom and I hear the lock turn.
I hear the front door open and I hear them come in and walk all over the room and talk. They better not talk too loud, or they’ll wake her up sure and then she’ll come for me.
“She’s out cold,” someone says who is neither Mr. Dunn nor the janitor.
“Where’s the kid?” That’s the janitor.
They walk around for a while and then the door opens and someone, not Mom and not Mr. Dunn and not the janitor but huge, is looking in and down at me.
“She’s here,” he says, then steps back.
“Alice?” That’s Mr. Dunn now, come to look down on me. “Alice? Come on, Alice,” he says and he gives me his hand, and I take it. I like Mr. Dunn for himself but not for him making Mom mad. She will sure teach me a lesson for this. His hand is warm and strong and he helps me out of the closet. My knees hurt only a little when I stand up.
Someone is waking Mom up and putting her on a stretcher. There are many people in here now, more than I can count just like that, and one of them is shining a light into Mom’s eyes, first into one of them then into the other. Then they tuck her in good and lift her up. She’s crazy mad sure that all these people are in here she’ll blame me sure for letting them in and then she’ll teach me a lesson about not letting people in.
They carry her away. Two big men, both with hairy arms, one dark and one like carrot color.
Mom doesn’t look at me. She’s so crazy mad at me she’s pulled the gray blanket over her eyes and even her hair, so you can only see the tip of her head, so she doesn’t have to look at me.
Mr. Dunn’s warm hand has not let go of my mine and he is saying something to me.