Meredith Alling


I am buttering bread when a man wearing a mask walks in and says “OK, on the floor.” So I put down the butter knife and sit cross-legged. He says “Where are the others?” and I shake my head and he says “Who is all that bread for?” and I say “Me” and he says “Unlikely” and then Danny and Clark walk into the kitchen and the man says “OK guys, down on the floor.” So the boys get down. I ask “What do you want?” and the man says “Money” and I say “We don’t have any money, as you can see” and the boys look at me. He says “Where is the man of the house?” and I say “These are the men” and he looks at the boys and they both straighten up for a moment. I can see Clark’s hands are shaking but Danny looks tough. He’s got that firm lip he gets when he’s fed up, when he wants Spaghetti-O’s instead of a sandwich, the hockey shirt instead of the truck shirt. “OK” the man says. He comes to me and lifts me by the elbow. Danny says “Hey.” I tell him it’s OK. I tell him to stay down. The man takes me to the bedroom and says “Show me where it is.” I say “There isn’t anything to show.” He says “Show me something then.” I don’t know what he means but I pull open the top drawer of the dresser with all of the jewelry. He peeks inside. “Something else,” he says. I pick up the wooden box from the vanity and open it, hand him my father’s gold watch. “This is nice,” he says. He pockets it, then says “OK, what else?” I look around the room. I open the second drawer of the dresser and reach under the sweaters. I pull out a framed photo of me at Niagara Falls. “Have you been?” I ask. The man takes the photo and looks at it. “No” he says. “This is bullshit.” I tell him I have twenty-two dollars in my purse. He makes me get it. Danny says “Mom?” from the other room and I say “Sit down Danny.” The man is mad. He gets in my face. I say “Why did you come here?” He says “I saw the BMW” and I say “That’s an old car. You can have it.” He says “I know.” I say “Why don’t you leave?” and he says “No.” I say “Why don’t you stay then?” and he says “What the fuck.” I am trying to remember any story about this kind of thing. About what people did and how they survived. “My brother is a cop,” I say. The man laughs. “I used to be a cop,” he says. He walks around the bedroom touching my things. He pulls the curtain aside and looks into the street. “Who is that?” he says. I go to the window and stand next to him. There is a woman parking her car. “I don’t know,” I say. “Yes you do,” the man says. “I honestly don’t.” The man drops the curtain and sits down on the bed. He looks up at me and for the first time I see that those eyes in the holes are green. “You have green eyes,” I say. “Don’t talk to me like that,” he says. I hear noise in the kitchen. “Boys, sit down!” I shout. The man laughs. I look at him. “This isn’t funny,” I say. He stands up. He stands over me. “I’m going to burn this house down,” he says. I shrug. I lean on the dresser. “I’m going to burn the car.” I tell him it’s his car. He takes the Niagara Falls picture and throws it against the wall. Danny yells from the kitchen. “Sit down!” I shout. The man looks at me and I look at him. His eyes become narrow. “You are under arrest,” he says. “For what?” I say. “Insubordination,” he says. I shake my head. The man wipes his hand over the front of his mask. “You’re a misfit,” he says. He walks back to the kitchen and I follow close behind him. “Your mother is a law breaker,” he says to the boys. “Your mother is a danger to society.” Clark and Danny look at me. Clark cocks his head. The man takes a piece of buttered bread and eats it through his mask. I lean against the wall and nod. “She’s a misfit,” the man says, his mouth filled with bread. He walks slowly to the front door, still chewing. He pushes some magazines off the coffee table. I say “Goodnight, Officer” before closing the door behind him.




Meredith Alling lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in DOGZPLOT, Monkeybicycle, Storm Cellar, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. Her website is here and she is on Twitter @meremyth.