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  • Writer's pictureMarie Smysor Watson

Self Reliance: A Portrait

She asked the question of the chicken in the kitchen.

She asked it of her grandparents in the foyer. Also of her great aunt and uncle, stationed next to them, both wearing glasses and dark green shirts of different patterns.

She asked the question of the cow grazing outside of the barn where he hung in the office.

And of her children, all sons, nestled on the table at her bedside.

Of the impossibly young her and her equally young husband, laughing and slyly glancing past at each other's shoulders, like two stars that had accidentally collided.

She asked the question of her parents, newly hung as they were just last month in the living room, a place of prominence just west of the large television.

What’s next? she whispered to each of them, bound in their frames, shackled by glass and wood. Surely they would know, collectively all of them together totalled up to something that could measure and quantify the vastness of space, added to the depth of ocean and multiplied by the mysteries of humankind. She paused, breathing slowly and shallowly.

The cow did not moo, her grandparents and great-aunt were dead, her great-uncle had folded in on himself, her parents were busy becoming old, her sons were growing along with their secrets, her husband had no time for her silly heart. The chicken did not crow. It remained with its neck stretched out, hungry, ready to peck, a gleam in its greedy eye that she was vaguely jealous of.

A stray sock, crumpled with sweat, made a small island on the vast ocean of the kitchen floor. She thought about picking it up, then wondered what message it would send to her sons. So she left it and went to the basement to start a load of laundry, where the sock would have found a home, nestled among dirty things waiting to be transformed, if only someone had been a better caretaker to begin with.

It was hardly a thing, barely a breath, or a silent cluck, or a moo at twilight. It was definitely not an answer, but it was at very least, a start.

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