the origin of clouds (a novel)#12


     By the time they dragged Laura out of the bathroom, Susan had made up her mind about the three men in white. She had tracked their stiff, white, moribund shoes around the house. Noticed the sweat-stains under the fat-man’s arms each time he yanked at one of the scraggly strands of dirty blond hair that had escaped Brylcreaming with a fine-tooth comb, met the impervious glare of the skinny-man with the sharp chin and saggy cheeks that gave him the appearance of having mumps. The skinny-man had been charged with babysitting Susan (too young to be in school) while the fat-man and the other man with the raspy voice and hand bag like the doctors carry, too tall for her to ever lean her head back far enough to get a good look at him, brought her mother down-stairs on a stretcher.

            Laura had stopped cursing her husband (“Jacques, you fucking bastard!”). All the wildness that shifted in Susan’s mind while hearing the screams and crashing furniture (“Get out of here you mother fuckers! Let me go!”) became diffidence—at the sight of her mother strapped down like a captured animal, in the smug faces of the men in white. The skinny-man, who appeared to be holding his breath the entire time, let out a croak and lurched forward as she moved toward Laura. But the fat-man said, “Let her be Steve.” And the men watched as the little girl followed a path, safe and unbroken, to her mother’s open hand. More than anything else, Susan remembered its softness, hopelessly soft, as her mother said, “I love you.”

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