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‘Take this medicine,’ the doctor said, ‘and you will become neutral.’
I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I took the amber glass bottle filled with small white pills and a puff of cotton wool on top and put it on the kitchen windowsill, next to the aloe vera and the plastic Cinderella.
The sunlight shone through the amber bottle and sparkled rays of golden light across the grey floor. The lino should have been white but I had not scrubbed it for months, perhaps years. I got out the mop often enough, and swabbed it across the floor but the stains were stubborn-grained into the lino. Perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough.
I thought about this, about the stains on the floor and my not trying hard enough as I watched the sunlight sparkle on the amber bottle and I felt my body grow and grow until my head pressed against the ceiling and my spine curved and my body curled my body into a sausage and I wondered if it was too late to stick my leg through the window and escape.
When my daughter came home and saw me all twisted and stuck, a contortionist in a glass jar, she said, ‘Mum, have you taken your pills?’
And just like that I shrank back and found myself curled up against the dishwasher.
I pointed at the amber bottle on the kitchen windowsill. My daughter picked it up. Her face creased as she read the black print on the bottle’s label.
She shook the bottle. ‘Is this a new doctor you saw today?’
I frowned. I wasn’t sure what my daughter meant by new. Did she mean newly graduated? Or newly arrived in the town? Or new skinned, all bright and shiny? New darted in and out of my brain, a school of flashing silver fish, one fish per meaning but all new, all new, each one a product with a thousand uses.
‘New … neutral!’ I looked up at my daughter’s face. ‘The doctor said the pills would make me neutral.’
I nodded my head with confidence but my daughter shook her head.
‘No mum,’ she shook the bottle at me and I shrank and shrank and scuttled cockroach-safe under the dishwasher.
My eyes blinked in the dark. I could hear my daughter’s muffled angry yells as she pinched at my skinny cockroach legs but under the dishwasher it was warm and damp and only a little bit smelly.
I curled up but she dragged me out and picked me up and threw me on the couch and she shouted into her phone and then my phone and then both phones, shaking the amber bottle in her fist.
And when she turned her back, I scuttled off the couch and across the floor and down the back stairs to a place where she could never, ever find me.
I don’t think this medicine is working.
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published 10 July 2013