Rebecca Banta

M ona didn't mind the cold, (worst storm of the century), an icy shroud around the house. (more than thirty-six inches over night in some hard hit areas) She was up all night painting the living room. It's clean now, she thought, clean as a whistle, squeaky clean and cold, just the way I like it.
Mona sat in front of the TV, looking over it at her clean walls. She kept an eye on the storm warnings, but the volume was down. Mona hated TV. She was afraid of the trash and dirt. She wouldn't listen to that sweet talk, to those wheedling voices whispering promises all the while dripping blood on her clean walls, never hung with pictures or shelves with crystal vases, books, or souvenir plates. She worried about earthquakes, imagined piles of broken pottery, books and splintered wood, drifts of dust and cobwebs messing up her floor. She couldn't breathe buried under the rubble, couldn't move when the front window shattered and she felt the frosted shards of glass pierce her eyes and mouth and every other place in her body where there was still dirt and trash she thought was sucked up deep and tight inside. Mona walked to the kitchen to wash her hands and face, wash away the paint and blood and bits of brain and dirt and other things that oozed from a thousand places in her body. The pipes were frozen, so was the water in the tea kettle. No fuel, she thought. She had chased the fuel man away last week. I don't need any, she told him. Mona hated men. She saw the winks and nods, was afraid of all that throbbing ambition. Mona wouldn't listen to those urgent demands, beguiling tricks. She knew their devious ways like she knew dirt and earthquakes. Mona knew trash when she saw it. She opened the back door and let the clean, cold snow drift on the kitchen floor.

First published: March 1994