Muth

August Muth: Fingerprint of the Universe, hologram laminated in glass, photo-luminescent pigment, courtesy the artist

My name is Haileigh Browne, I am fifteen years old and living with my mom. My parents got a divorce so my mom and I moved to a place called Harlan County, Kentucky. We drove up to a small apartment that we would be living in. The curtains were a dark blood red, the bathroom was about the size of a closet, and the two bedrooms were medium sized. The carpet looked like if you stepped in the wrong spot, you would sink into the stain. It wasn’t home, but it was what we had for the moment. My mom and I were sitting on the floor in the living room/kitchen thinking of the same thing; this isn’t going to be home, it never will be. A few tears raced down her left cheek as if it were a real race to see which tear would fall down her jawline fastest. I kissed her, stood up, and walked to my bedroom that had boxes everywhere full of the crap I decided to keep. I laid down, closed my eyes, and immediately fell asleep.

Bzzt! Bzzt! I jolted up from the sound of the apartment’s alarm. There was an strong, familiar scent coming from the kitchen. I ran as quick as I could to the kitchen to see the stove in flames and my mother in there trying to put it out. I ran to the telephone in her bedroom and began to hurriedly dial the fire department. My mom screamed from the kitchen. I hung up and ran to her to see that the fire had only gotten worse. She was caught in the fire, burning with the remains of our kitchen. I didn’t know what to do, so I ran outside screaming for help. My vision blurred and I passed out on the floor.

My eyes were slowly opening again. I could feel myself coming back to reality as I wiggled my toes and made a fist with my hands. Ouch! I looked at my hands and they were burned. What happened? My eyes were fully open now, and there were two nurses standing above me checking the loud beeping monitors on both sides of me. I moved but cringed in pain. The nurses told me to relax.

“Ma’am, where’s my mom? Where am I? Why do I have burn marks on my body? Where’s my mother?!” That’s when a sheriff came into the room and the nurses left.

“Calm down, honey. My name is Officer Saylor. The apartment you and your mother were in had old, worn-out appliances which caught on fire. There was a defect with the stove and it burst into flames. The fumes caused you to pass out.”

“What about my mom?”

“Um … We did everything in our power to try and help her.”

“What do you mean?” I started ripping out the IV needles from my arms, causing more marks. I was about to jump off the bed but the officer grabbed my arm and sat me back down.

“Your mother died one hour ago. She had suffered from severe burning. There was nothing we could do.”

Harlan County, this place will never be home. Tears started to roll down my face as I crawled up in the hospital bed, crying so much I thought I was going to lose all the water in my body. The burns were rubbing against each other, leaving me a pain so excruciating I could have never thought a pain like this would have been possible.

“Where am I going to go? I have no one.”

“Well, there is a marshal that said he would volunteer to show you around and let you live there till you graduate from high school. He is very nice and I know he will keep you safe. Only if you are comfortable …” I cut her off and just gave her a gentle yet tight hug and said thank you.

***

“Hello, young one. I’m Tim Mullens, ya ready to go out and see the area?”

“Sure.” We started walking out and he pulled out his keys to a red Ford truck. We both got in and drove off into the town. I stayed staring out the window observing everything I could as he played the radio quietly.

He started talking every time we would pass something important like a historical building or little shopping marts and then we passed my school. It did not look like a high school at all. It was small and the paint was already so faded it looked like the school had been abandoned for years.

We arrived at Tim’s house. It was adorable and well taken care of. He had a garden in the front with a few daisies. “Go ahead and give yourself the tour. I want you to feel comfortable here so take your time.”

I felt like I was inside one of the home living magazines with all the interior design made by millionaires. I opened the door slowly to my room and saw everything was put up: my posters, family photos, and some clothes that hadn’t been damaged. The walls in my room were painted a light purple and I thought that was really convenient because my favorite color is purple. I had a little window that gave me a view of everything. I started crying, wishing my mom could see this.

***

‘I woke up feeling refreshed and smelled bacon, eggs, and hash browns cooking in the kitchen. My stomach began to growl so I got up, brushed my hair, and went to join Tim for breakfast.

“Good morning, Tim,” I said, forcing a smile.

“Mornin’, Haileigh. Sleep OK?”

“I don’t think I’ve slept that good in a long time. I don’t know if I thanked you yesterday, so thank you,” I said, playing with the silverware in front of me. He smiled.

I think I’ll be happy here. I love you, mom.