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Let It Go

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Photography

Catherine D. Kerr

BROKEN MUG

Christopher Bryson

She basked in the daylight and her memory.  She loved that time of day.  It was a day like this—same month, same hour—on which, years prior, she was made a bride.


She scrubbed the dishes with soap and let her head sway from left to right.  She thought of him. She listened to the kids on the block shouting about who’s it and, “Nuh-uh, no, you didn’t tag me, that was only my shirt!


She scrubbed the plate that her only child had used for breakfast that morning.  The eggs remained sticky. Her child’s voice was most distinct.  It was often bolstered with laughter. Even when arguing his case—“No you didn’t tag me, you missed, no fair!”—he was cheery.  She was excited to spend Sunday at the park with him because she never got to spend time with him anymore.  He was sure to sound like his father once fully grown.  His father was no longer around.  He hadn’t departed this earth, as far as she knew, but no one knew his whereabouts.


Mom! Mom!”  Their boy burst in through the front door.  She didn’t turn her head, only smiled.  She put the plate in the drying rack.


“Yes, bud?”


“Can I go fishing with Thomas and his dad on Sunday?


I thought we were going to the park Sunday?” she said.


“Ugh. Mom. Mom, I—”


“It’s okay, bud.  Go fishing Sunday.”


The boy burst outward and back into the street, slamming the door, uncaring how often she asked him to be gentle.  He could be gentle, but the speed at which he often moved didn’t allow for grace.  Like his father.


She scrubbed lipstick off the mug that used to be her favorite.  White suds disappeared the maroon stain.  She was about to hang it up to dry on the rack mounted above the window.


Mom!” The boy burst in again.  She dropped the mug.  It shattered into pieces on the dated countertop, into the soapy water of the sink and onto the tile floor.


Oh no!


Oh.  Sorry, mom. Um.”  The boy lingered in the foyer.  The sunlight bouncing about him turned his auburn hair red.  His cheeks began to match.


It’s okay.”  She stared at the pieces on the floor.  “What do you want, bud?”


She didn’t listen to his reply because, as she picked up the pieces, she was compelled, as if by a force from elsewhere, to remember where her husband had bought her this mug.


He came home with it one night after he had made her cry.  Her crying had made their child cry too (the boy was too young to remember the arguments).  It happened inside their cramped, one-bedroom, half-a-working-toilet apartment, the one they fled to after her father threatened to kill her husband over a debt.  It was on the southern end of Maple Street.


The mug came from a store on a street corner, she remembered, a store somewhere on Maple Street.  Her husband had to blow off steam and burst out for cigarettes, walking for miles to put distance between himself and his family.  In the middle of the night, he returned with the new mug.  She had an affinity for mugs.


But which corner store on Maple Street?  That street is three miles long. He was gone for hours that night. It was a unique mug.  She wanted it replaced, and, knowing her husband, he wouldn’t be home any time soon to tell her where to find another.  She decided she would go to Maple one day—perhaps while her child was fishing—and walk up and down the street alone.  She had never walked it alone.


She would check every corner store on Maple, hoping to see a mug just the same, one that could replace the pieces.  On that same walk, she would check to see if their old apartment still existed.  She would try to see if another happy little family had taken their place.


I’m sorry, bud.  What did you say?”  She threw the broken pieces out, returned to the sink, and absorbed the last of the sunshine.  Her silent tears fell into the dishpan.


“I’ll come to the park with you on Sunday, mom.


“No, bud. It’s fine. I want you to go fishing.”

Christopher Bryson has been living, studying, and working in Philadelphia for over two years.  He plays music in a couple of bands based in South Philadelphia.

Catherine Kerr’s first published photographs were taken to illustrate her work as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.  Later, as she followed a career path that led to ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, photography became a form of spiritual discipline.  She is particularly interested in the way light breaks in and illuminates, and in the way it’s reflected in the Delaware River and its tributaries near her home in New Hope, PA.