by Sarah Freligh
The boys again, their sneakered feet and chin zits and peach fuzz. Her boy at that age had been slow to grow, slow to do anything. At fourteen, he still had a voice like a flute and sang soprano in the choir until he dropped out because the high notes hurt his head. Everything hurt his head then – the light from the TV screen, the spin cycle on the washing machine – but she didn’t take him to the doctor until he imagined he could hear voices singing opera on the phone wires. The doctor tapped his right knee and ordered an MRI that lit up his brain pink and purple, like a sunset after a storm’s passed through only the real storm was coming and there was nothing to do but shut the windows and keep him quiet for as long as he had left, which turned out to be five months, three days. Ma’am, the boys call her when they come to the counter to ask for something, salt or straws or cups of ketchup. Ma’am, they say and when they say it softly enough, it sounds just like Mom.