Peter Markus

What Our Mother Always Told Us

What our mother always told us boys was, Don’t, don’t go, don’t get muddy, don’t walk into the house with mud, with mud wet, with mud caked dry, on the bottoms of our muddy boots. But us brothers, our filled with mud ears, we did not hear it when our mother said that word don’t. All we heard was our mother telling us brothers to go, get good and muddy, our mother’s voice telling us, her dirty little boys, to walk into the house with mud wet, mud caked dry, on the bottoms of our muddy boots. What did I just tell you? This was the question, these were the words that our mother was, to us brothers, all the time saying. Us brothers, we wouldn’t say anything to what it was that our mother was saying. We would stand there, with mud shining up on the floor between us, with mud in broken pieces, bread crumbs of mud, scattered across the floor behind us, and we would wait then for what we knew was always about to come at us brothers next. What was about to come at us brothers next was this: our mother would come lunging at us brothers with her mother hands pinching towards us brothers until it was our ears, one ear for each of us brothers, that she had pinched in her hands. Our mother’s pinchy fingers, they did not make us flinch, or wince with our boy bodies, or make us with our boy mouths the sound of a brother crying out for help. Bad, our mother would try to whisper, but the whisper of this would make more of a hiss. How many times, our mother would then say it, do I have to tell you no, don’t, stop. You boys make it out like you got mud for brains, she would sometimes to us say. To this, us brothers, to our mother saying this, we would always say thank you. Our mother would not say anything to us saying this. She’d just tug and she’d pull at our muddy boy ears until our boy heads were almost touching, and she would not stop this tug of war tugging until our faces were facing the shining whiteness of the bathroom sink. And what she’d do then was this: our mother, she would turn on the hot water faucet, turn it on full blast, and she would take into her hand a brush, the same brush she used to scrub the mud from off the bottoms of our boots, and then she would scrub at us brothers, at our muddy hands, at the mud that was crusted behind our ears, and she would not stop until the sink we were gazing down into, with hot water steaming down from its spout, turned from its shining whiteness to the rivery color of mud. The more that our mother scrubbed, the harder she pulled and tugged and brushed at us brothers with that bristled brush, the more muddy, the more muddier, the water and the sink with the muddied water filling up inside of it would get. And after it was over, after our mother would send us to our bedroom, no matter how hard or for how long our mother would spend cleaning up this mess, there’d always be some spatter of speckled mud, some smudgy stain of muddied up water, left behind in our wake. And on nights like these, after our mother was in her own room fast asleep sleeping, us brothers, we would crawl around the house on our hands and knees and we would clean up, us boys, we’d lick, the left behind mud up. Oh, our house, on nights like these, in those places where the mud had once been, it never looked so shiny. Not even our mother could have dreamed that a house made of mud could ever be so clean.


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