Issue 8, January 2011
Mother and Child
By Cezarija Abartis
That hill town hovers on the height, clings to the crest. The roof tops, orange and red tiles, are mosaics from the distance of the autostrada, mirthful shapes. They are beautiful as jewels, and yet the town was built on the summit not for the view and not to be decorative to the envious eye of the passerby in the valley, but for protection.
"What, Mommy, protection from what?"
I will protect you.
"From what, Mommy? From dragons and witches?"
I would chase them away.
"From demons, Mommy?"
I would fight them.
"Mommy, we learned about germs today. They're invisible. No footprints even."
I would subdue them if they had feet and hands and were large as mountains. She kissed her beautiful son on his soft baby cheek. She br-r-r-d her lips.
He laughed at the vibration and shrieked. "Mommy, protection from what?"
From the Black Death of 1349, from the flood of the Arno River in 1966, from the earthquake on April 6, from the starvation in 1901, from the Vandals and Goths and barbarian hordes.
He squirmed in her arms. "Mommy, look at the plane."
It soared above them in the silent blue, so that it seemed a needle sewing together earth and heaven.
"You were not able to protect Daddy."
I gave him medicines.
"Will he be back?"
I will always protect you. When you skinned your knee, I picked you up. When you wept over Kitty, I comforted you. When you injured your brow, I carried you to the doctor.
Another plane appeared, and then a V-formation of bombers. How could even the strongest and most loving of mothers subdue flying metal, cutting bullets, blossoming fire? She held him close to her chest as the engines roared above her, as the acrid smoke swirled around them.
BIO: Cezarija Abartis' Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Prime Number, Underground Voices, Manoa, Story Quarterly, and New York Tyrant (which also gave her story The Lidano Fiction Award). "Mother and Child" was begun in an online writers' group, ShowMeYourLits.com. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.