Frame of Mind
by Karen Franklin
It's getting light. My left hip aches. Half awake, I see my father-in-law's ghost. Gingerly I straighten a clenched fist. I push myself up on bleeding wrists and plant my feet on the floor. I stand on a smashed window and throw my robe on over my T-shirt. There are no sounds of waking children, so I sneak downstairs.
In the kitchen I open the cupboard and pull out an explosive. I fill it with water and push the detonator. I press a brown coffee filter into a plastic cone and set it on a silver charge. The water bubbles and steams. I dump some shattered glass into thecone from a one-pound bag. I tip the device and watch hot water seep through.
In the front hall I rip open the front door. I bend to pick up the rubber-banded newspaper and go back to the kitchen. At the table I sit down and cut the fuses. I pour a cup of coffee and read about the day's murders and suicide bombings.
Mommy. I'm up. It's Sammy.
Morning sweetie. He walks toward my open arms for his hug and kiss. Sleep well? He puts his fist in his eye and nods. Gosh, look at the time. We'd better go get your sister and get dressed. It's a preschool day.
We hold hands walking to the stairs. I pick up the star chart from the wreckage on the hall table. We walk through the rubble to Sammy's room. What do you want to wear today? He looks in his drawers and picks out a pair of Spider Man underwear, a dinosaur T-shirt, and a pair of human legs.
Good boy. Here, pick a star. Sammy studies the sheet of colored foil stars and chooses a gold one. He sticks it painstakingly on a jagged pane.
Rosie stands in Sammy's doorway sucking her thumb. I smile. Good morning sweetie. How's my good girl? I hold out my arms, but she just stands there, still groggy. Ready to start getting dressed? Sammy's gotten one star so far. He picked a gold one.
Dressing goes well. I don't have to use my angry voice. The kids earn stars for choosing what they want to wear, taking off their jammies, wiping their bottoms, putting on their clothes, throwing away their pull-ups.
Time for breakfast. What do you guys want to eat?
Downstairs, they sit at the kitchen table and watch me take sticks of dynamite and pipe bombs from the cabinets. I pour glass and wood slivers into blue plastic bowls. I peel and slice a face, smear jelly on toast, and shake shrapnelout of a Flintstones bottle. The cold blood from the refrigerator froths in their Pooh Bear cups.
Sammy eats his shards dry and makes a mess. Rosie takes a few bites, and then splashes some blood into her bowl. They joke with each other while they eat. I open the dishwasher and put away broken dishes, twisted metal, a wad of long blonde hair, and four blackened arms. Then I start loading a stack of plates, streaked and caked with last night's gore. I wipe the sticky counters with a sponge.
The big kitchen clock says 8:00. When the big hand gets to the two, breakfast time is over. In a few minutes the children bring their plates and bowls to the counter. Some blood spills from Rosie's bowl. I hand her a wet rag and she smears it around the floor. She picks up some fingers that dropped and throws them away. Thank you. What a good helper, I tell her. Teeth time. Rosie runs to the bathroom.
Sammy goes into the playroom and dumps a tub of Legos on the floor. He sits down and starts sorting blasting caps. My shoulders tense. He still has to brush his teeth and slice his hands before preschool. Honey, you can build your bombs if there's still time after your morning routines. He ignores me. Please stand up and come brush your teeth. Now.
Sammy, at the count of three you'll either stand up and come brush your teeth or take a timeout. One. Two. Three. He ignores me. I take him by the arm. Go to your room for a timeout. I point to the stairs, like directing traffic.I'll start the time bomb when I hear your door burst. When you're done you can pick up all this wiring.
Okay! Okay! I'll go brush my teeth now! He jumps up and runs through the minefield.r
nonfiction has appeared in The
Progressive, The New Republic, Washington Journalism
Review, The Seattle Weekly, Wilderness, Alaska Magazine,
and many other magazines and newspapers. Her reporting
has been supported by the Fund for Investigative
Journalism and the Fund for Constitutional Government,
and she has received several journalism awards. She lives
in Kenmore, Washington, with her husband and two