My finger pushes into the number two hole of the round dial on the wall telephone that hangs in the kitchen. I have to stand on this chair to reach it. Sometimes when I pick up the receiver I hear my neighbor talking. My mom says I have to hang up when that happens, but I don’t always do that. I listen because I hope I will hear a secret.

My mom drinks cranberry juice. It’s her favorite. I like grape juice, but I have to be very careful because it stains and I have to clean it up right away if it spills. My mom has spilled her red juice all over the floor. She should clean it up before it stains but she is just sitting there. Maybe after I make this telephone call I will do it for her because I’m a helper. I am four years old and I can do a lot of things. I got dressed by myself this morning in my blue tights and my red dress with the buttons. This dress is a grown up dress because it scratches my neck. I brushed my hair too. My hair is so long that I’m scared it will get in the toilet so I tuck my chin into my chest. That makes my mom laugh. She isn’t laughing now or cleaning up that juice.

Two and the dial spins back a little.

Nine and the dial spins back a lot.

Yesterday I accidentally ran over a dead shrew with my bike that doesn’t even have training wheels. It was a very teeny shrew and I picked it up and held it in both of my hands while I climbed the hill where I buried it and put moss over the grave. Then I washed my hands with dirt.

My mom is talking quiet and funny when she tells me the numbers to dial that will ring the phone of our neighbor, Debbie. I like Debbie. She makes pancakes with chocolate chips and she has kids. Andy is four like me and a boy, Joey is six and is a girl. Sometimes I kiss Andy when we play house. His lips are usually very wet and sometimes there is snot on his face so I have to wipe my mouth off on my sleeve afterwards. Sometimes we watch each other pee.

I put my finger in the six hole and it’s almost right in the middle so it whirs right back into place as far as it spun it out.

Two again is easy. Zip!

The lake in my backyard is very big. You have to walk through the woods to go skating on it. My ice skates are black and have a white stripe. They aren’t all white like Dorothy Hamill’s skates. Sometimes there are piles of moose poop in the woods and I am careful not to step on it. Moose are very big, big but their poop is like tiny eggs. I wish my skates were all white.

If Debbie says that Joey and Andy want to play with me, my mom will put my hair into a pony tail. I hate pony tails that pull and scratchy dresses but I like it a lot when my mom uses the hairdryer after my bath. I always fall asleep because it’s so warm and the brushing makes my head skin feel very good. She has to wake me up a little so I will roll over and she can dry the other side. But I try not to wake up very much.

I wish she was doing that right now instead of telling me numbers with a strange voice and not cleaning that cranberry juice up which is very weird because she is cleaning things up all the time. She likes to be organized and even reads books about it. “I’m getting organized!” She says. We went to the grocery store for cottage cheese and honey for me and she asked the worker for some apple boxes which are just the right size. She filled those boxes up with our things and wrote on the outside what is in every single box. But one of them she covered all over in sticky paper that has little birds on it and wrote my name on it. Margie Gail. It’s a treasure box for my good things like the books I write. I write a lot of books and play library. My first ever pair of ballet shoes are in the box and so is my yellow dress from when I was a baby. Her baby.

There’s a picture of me wearing that yellow dress and sitting on a boat. When my dad is home he builds boats out of metal in our garage. He uses them to catch fish that are much bigger than me. You can cut the heart out of one of those big fish and it will still beat in your hand for a very long time. He tells me to stop it when I cry about those hearts.

Three is like two and six again and then zero that is the best of all because you have to spin all the way around and get to watch it spin all the way back. Whirrrrrr.

My mom wants Debbie to come over right away, so that is what I say, with very nice manners. I’m a good girl for helping, but I just made a phone call that was numbers and easy for a someone who is four years old. My mom says I’ve done something very important, but the floor is still messy and she is still not sitting or talking right and so I don’t feel very happy.  She has almost closed eyelids but it’s not bedtime and she’s not lying down all the way. She is just sitting there against the wall looking very sleepy and shlumpy. I think I’ll go draw her something nice.

Debbie comes over all by herself without Joey or Andy. She just opens the door and walks right in without knocking and wipes up that juice that isn’t from cranberries at all but from the insides of my mom, without talking to me very much at all. We have to call up my dad on the phone because Debbie says that my mom has to go to the hospital right away so that she can have all of her organs removed.

I wonder if her heart will still beat if it is sitting in someone’s hand.

It feels like a very long time that my mom stays away because I have to sleep at strangers’ houses who my dad knows from work or something and I miss my room. My dad buys red carnations that are her favorite and goes to see her at the hospital in Anchorage, which is far away from where we live in Soldotna on Tote Road. I really hope she isn’t bleeding anymore. I forgot to ask.

At one of those helpful houses there are a lot of big kids, and in the basement they have gymnastics bars that are too tall for me to reach so one of the kids lifts me up. I was going to spin around but I fall off and break my arm in two places instead.

People call getting all of your organs removed a hysterectomy.

My dad works far away on oil rigs and he goes on a lot of trips for work to Prudhoe Bay which sits on top of our state of Alaska like a hat. I can’t imagine what it looks like there. I think it’s probably dark and full of dads wearing shirts with dark stains and snaps instead of buttons. When I break my arm in two places, he brings me to the same hospital that has my mom and all of her organs. He has to carry me because my arm hurts so bad I can’t walk on my feet.

The doctor gives me a shot that makes me cry hard. I say, “Please make them stop,” to my dad. He has a worried look on his face that I’ve never seen before but makes me feel sort of better. He doesn’t tell me to stop crying.

They put a cast on my arm that is white and cold but changes into hard and warm while we go in the elevator to where my mom has her own room with the red carnations in a vase made of colored glass. She says I can get in and pulls the blanket so I can crawl into her bed that turns into a chair if you push a button. I go right to sleep with my face against her soft nightgown that is not scratchy at all. Sometimes I don’t mind having a little nap.

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Meg Worden is a mother, master of complications and manifestor of abundance. She has been a columnist for the Lovely County Citizen in Eureka Springs AR and placed first for Ascent Magazine’s text writing contest in 2008. Meg believes a sense of humor is far more important than a sense of direction and knows for a fact she can laugh wildly amidst severest woe. Currently Meg is living in Portland, OR where she stays up late at night working on her memoir project about the two years she spent in Federal Prison. Find her at megworden.com

26 responses to “My Mother is Bleeding”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    This was wonderful, Meg. What a memory you have!

  2. an absolutely amazing piece of writing…. going back to read it again…and again…

  3. when I am reading this I am 4, i can feel every thought..its really really really good ..can;t wait to read more

  4. Solar says:

    Vivid. Deep. Sad. Beautiful. xo

  5. That was excellent; perfect tone, unbelievably dear, and getting all her organs out and more; nice writing! loved it.

  6. Abby Kerr says:

    Meg —

    This is beautiful. Shining. Pure. You are one of the bravest writers I know.

  7. Marni Grossman says:

    I had to read this twice. It was so powerful. This line, ” I’m a good girl for helping” just broke my heart.

    SO wonderful.

  8. I read this to 2 writing classes Monday night and to a class today – mouths hung open; you were a hit; i want to be on a list where I get everything you write; how does one do that; best

    • Meg Worden says:

      That is so great to hear, Esther. Thank you.

      For this kind of writing there really isn’t a list. (The list I have is for my food/health writing). Also, I’m in the middle of finishing a book so haven’t been publishing much at all online. But when I do, I post them on my facebook. You can friend me if you want. http://facebook.com/feedmedarling or follow me on twitter @megworden.

      Or just email me if you want. meg {at} megworden.com

  9. p.gilbert says:

    Truly lovely, vivid memories of sweet, sensitive innocence. Consistently the exceptional little girl, even now. Brilliant, accurate, and gracefully written.

  10. Markham Lee says:

    I remember my Mom teaching me how to use a rotary phone when I was 4-5, and having me practice and memorize how to dial the numbers of friends and relatives in case anything happened.

    About a year later we moved 45 minutes away from our small college town to a tiny rural community in the middle of nowhere, the kind of place with one family per mile and party line phones. I remember having to show her I still remembered all the numbers once she got pregnant with my sister, because she was having a difficult pregnancy and my Step-Dad was 45 minutes away at work.

    Reading this took me right back to our old drafty kitchen, the blue linoleum and what it felt like to dial the phone by yourself, not understanding why Mom is so sick all the time, thinking this idea of a baby being inside of her belly making zero sense, etc. Amazing how you were able to write this from the perspective of a four year old and transport me back to memories I haven’t thought of in years.

    The fact that you got a shout out form your Mom in the comments is the icing on the cake, glad she’s okay!

    • Meg Worden says:

      Dear Markham, Isn’t it so interesting how powerful these memories can be? When we are first realizing the world is big and frightening and there is a chance that our parents won’t be around to protect us? It polarizes, puts everything into slow motion high def. I can still smell the hard plastic of the phone. I can see the rose hips on the bush in our yard. Everything alert, separate, distinct.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your memories as well. Love.

  11. Gloria says:

    I remember hearing this read in your voice at some point, though perhaps I’m making it up. Nevertheless, I heard you the whole time I read this, which made the magnificent divine.

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