Mouths Wide Shut

 Subtitle: Hamster's Big Night Out

In the dream I was a passenger riding in the front seat of an unfamiliar dark small low car.

The driver was angry at something and we were going fast, too fast.

After taking a turn almost-too-fast, he plowed us into the back of a car which then hit another car and another car like dominoes.  As the crash unfolded, the  dashboard pushed onto me impossibly slowly but so fast I couldn’t beat it. 

Then it was completely covering me, unseparate from me.

I didn’t scream.

I felt no pain.

Don’t ask me where the dream went from there because something was tugging at the back of my neck.

 That should not be happening, I thought and tried to fall back asleep.

 Then felt it again, something small burrowing though and into my hair, having some sort of happy kicking twisting festival right next to my neck.

Still  dream-numb I reached up and grabbed it and threw it down.


 But I don’t scream. I’m not a screamer. I grab my phone and use it like a flashlight, searching under be bed.

There, next to two of Zack’s rolled up socks (ah ha! found some!)  two beady eyes stared up at me. Relieved that it really was “something” I sit back on the bed and scrunch my eyes up trying to remember my dream and I can’t.

The light on my phone turns off.  I wake up a little more and realize I’m the Mom. I can’t just sit here and let hair partying rodents roam this house.

The universe sends me the courage to look the beast in the eye again, or at least, look to see if it has a tail before grabbing for it.

If it has a tail, it’s a rat or a mouse or some other rabid stranger. If it doesn’t, it must be our hamster having a fantastic adventure that will be cut short due to his bad judgement.

The light flash under the bed confirms the offender is our the renegade hamster.
 I pick it up and wrap it in the bottom of my shirt.

 It kicks hard and I soothe it, now laughing at it’s audacity at breaking out of his home, descending from a high perch, and -- out of every room in this awesome house -- picking my hair as his destination.  

As I tiptoe across the living room I hear, “You carried me out here?” and drop the hamster from my shirt.

Am I asleep?

Did the hamster talk?

 Please tell me this isn’t how Alvin started.

The mute hamster stares up at me, startled and tired.

 I reach down for him and look to the sofa where Zoe is buried under a pile of comforters.

"No," I tell her. "You fell asleep there watching Dance Moms and I left you."

Oh, she exhales and gets up to walk to her room.

I recount the hamster’s audacious hair attack while tucking her in.

As she falls asleep in her bed Zoe mumbles, “That tiny little guy really crossed this whole house and found you on your pillow. I’m glad he went into your hair and not.... somewhere else.  I hope you learn to sleep with your mouth shut....”

In the silence after that, I shiver a little, then get up and re-check the hamster’s cage before I can fall back asleep and into a gentler dream.


 Remember this one?

Potatoes Past the Hour

She feels better, I think.

After 8 days of fever and couch-laying and moaning Zoe seemed almost herself tonight.

I wanted to be gentle on her stomach so I baked potatoes for dinner.

I made the first potato for her, peeling it and smashing it and butter-salt-stirring it just right in a shallow wide red bowl.

 She ate it happily and neatly, and then got up to prepare herself a second potato.

She tried smashing her potato with a spoon, which just won't work.

She doesn't ask for help, but I can't help myself.

Standing next to her I notice (and then try to forget) that she is almost as tall as I am, and any minute any breath she will tower over me.

"You need a fork for smashing the potatoes just right....  and then you need to get a thin thin thin slick of butter so it melts quickly and after that you add two shakes of salt and....."

My daughter interrupts me to proclaim, "This is wonderful! This is art! You are a potato artist!; You should have your own cooking show on HGTV! Potatoes Past the Hour with Melissa... or Cooking with the Potato Dr... or...." she stops and thinks of something else, and I interrupt her for a reality intervention.

"I will not cook on TV, never never never, not on your life," I snap (gently?) but she ignores my protest and gets her brother to join her on a tangent inventing catchy potato show titles.

It seems like she feels better, like she conquered the virus and she's back.