From “Tenants,” THE FAMILY CANNON by Halina Duraj
My mother scrubbed the blood all evening. She dipped the hard-bristled brush in a bucket of ammonia while my father ate pork chops and sauerkraut at the kitchen table. She came downstairs to make him a cup of tea—he’d never made one for himself—and she turned on the TV for him while he put his feet up on the coffee table. Then she went back upstairs to paint. She painted that same night so the room could be advertised the next day. I didn’t have to sleep in the trundle that night, because she never came to bed. I crept up the stairs, and at the top, I rested my chin on the banister. On the other side of the wall, I heard the slap of the brush against the plaster and my mother crying. A strip of light appeared under Don the Barber’s door, and then I heard bedsprings and floorboards and I turned and went down the stairs. From the darkness at the bottom, I watched him cross the hall, and I heard murmurings and mumblings and then my mother’s voice a little louder, a little firmer, then a shushing noise. ‘Please,’ I heard my mother say. ‘Don’t.’
And then Don the Barber walked back across the hall, shut the door. His light didn’t go off, but I went to bed anyway. I woke up at six o’clock when my mother came downstairs and made my father breakfast and packed his lunch and carried it out to his car and went down to the Tribune to place a new ad: Room for rent. Just painted. Please inquire.
In the afternoon, she painted a second coat, and then you almost couldn’t see the stains.”