The purpose of a door, I suppose is to keep things out. Wayward strangers. Bad weather. Nosy investigators from Child Protection. Critters, too, of course: Momma don’t want no skunks and coons trailing inside to bear their young behind the wood burning stove. I guess a door is a barrier; a kind of plastic wrap designed to keep the inhabitants inside safe.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work, anyhow.
Our door is a painted soft green on the inside. Momma painted it; says it recollects to her mind the first buds of spring. Momma needs such reminders: She ain’t been outside in fifteen years.
There’s a dartboard hanging on the inside of that door, a dartboard so full of holes it can no longer hold onto a dart. And yet, I still throw.
I throw, letting the darts plan my destination: One: San Diego; Two: Columbus; Three: Tallassee. The truth is, I don’t much care where I go. As long as I head somewhere.
“Yes, Momma.” I throw a dart. It bounces and falls to the floor.
“You fixing us some lunch?”
“Mmm hmm…” Another dart. Six: Detroit.
“I’m getting hungry.”
Ain’t nothing wrong with Momma, if that’s what you’re wondering. She’s got two feet and two legs, same as me. She ain’t fat and confined to her bed. No. It’s just that Momma’s afraid to leave her room.
Used to be she couldn’t leave the neighborhood.
Then she couldn’t leave the house.
Now, confines herself to her bedroom; living her entire life in an eight by ten space full of loneliness and fear.
Momma’s been in that room for four years now. I take care of her business, pouring it in the outhouse three times a day.
I accept the charity of the neighbors.
“What you fixing, Liese?”
Chicken feet is what I want to say. “Ravioli. Miz Thompson brought it over.”
I will heat up Momma’s lunch and take it to her on a plate. She and I will eat by the light of a kerosene lantern, she making plans for a trip outside her bedroom; me pretending to believe her.
I have one rule; one promise I have made to myself. If I ever hit that bulls eye, I’m leaving. I’ve got my bags packed and no amount of begging from Momma will cause me to stay.
I throw the dart. Eight: Phoenix. “Coming, Momma.”
Momma cuts a ravioli into eight neat pieces so she doesn’t choke and end up going to the hospital. “What are you planning on doing this afternoon, Liese?”
“Nothing. Same as always.”
“You don’t do nothing. You play those darts.”
“I hit that bulls eye, Momma, and I’m gone.”
She shakes her head. “It ain’t safe out there, Liese. All kinds of trouble. You could die.”
I sigh. I have died a thousand deaths on the inside of this door. I gather up Momma’s plate and take the dishes to the kitchen. We will have ravioli for dinner tonight.
After I clean up the kitchen, I pick up my darts again. Eighteen: Des Moins. Eleven: Nome. Twenty: Trenton.
All these places to visit and I have not set foot off of this mountain.
Miz Davidson hands me a casserole through the open window. “Yam and marshmallows,” she pronounces. “With a touch of sausage.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.”
“Good lord, child, when are you getting out of this place?”
She shakes her head. “You got to make your own opportunities, Liese. You can’t be waiting on superstition or luck or even your momma to give you permission.”
“Momma ain’t never giving me permission, Miz Davidson.”
“Are you…” Miz Davidson glances around before continuing. “Liese, are you waiting for your mother to pass?”
“No. I’m waiting on the bulls eye.” I point to the dart board.
“Come outside, Liese. You don’t have to wait for the bulls eye.”
Her eyes are shining. “It’s a wonderful day.”
I set the casserole on the counter and go to the door. I reach for the door handle.
“If you open that door, it’s over, Liese. Once you’re gone don’t come back to me for no help.”
I pause. Momma’s standing at her bedroom door.
“Momma, I’ve got to live.”
“I need you.” Her face is red. Tears stream down her cheeks.
“Liese, open that door,” Miz Davidson commands from the window.
“I’m sorry, Momma.” I turn the knob and pull open the door.
The grass is soft beneath my feet and the buds are green and there, in the center of that flower, a dash of red.
Momma comes to the door. She’s holding a gun. “Bulls eye,” she says to Miz Davidson.
This was linked up to StoryDam’s challenge.