Mama dropped a man on the table in the dining room not long ago. I was just playin’ in the yard with my brother when she came out of the Woods with him in his arms, like he was one of our hay bales. I didn’t know who he was, ‘sides that he wasn’t Papa. Papa just walks on his own legs.
Bro and me didn’t know what was happenin’, what Mama was doing. She dropped him on the table just like that and walked to the kitchen. She was fast, Mama was. Mama isn’t fast unless she’s angry. At least I think it’s when she’s angry. I don’t know what she was angry at. Maybe the Man said mean things. Maybe she brought him here to teach him a lesson, like Papa used to get when he was little.
The Man didn’t speak much, just made little noises. I think I heard Mama call them moans once. He wiggled a little on the table, like the earthworms that Bro said he saw in the dirt. Mama always tells us not to disturb the earthworms. The Man was dirty, too. His blue clothes had dark spots on them, dark brown, but not like the dirt is. A redder brown. One of his arms was over his tummy, like he had a tummy ache. Maybe he ate too much dirt like the earthworms did.
Bro reached out for his arm, but I said no. “We don’t want to disturb him. Think of him like Mama talks about the worms.” He was confused. He looked at me with his eyes, and they said that worms don’t have arms, that worms don’t make noises and clutch their tummies after eating too much dirt.
Mama snapped all quick like before Bro reached out again. “Kids, please, leave him be. And stop calling him a worm.” We always knew to stop when Mama snapped. She didn’t like us teasing anyone, even if they didn’t hear us. “Keep your distance, he needs the space.”
We walked into the kitchen and saw Mama grabbing the white cloths from the cupboard, along with other little metal things from the kitchen. There were ones I hadn’t seen before in her hands, pointy ones and ones with strange shapes. Bro and me stared, just watchin’ her grab these strange shiny sticks. I didn’t know which one I wanted to ask about first.
“Mama?” Bro spoke real quiet. “Who is… him, on the table?”
Mama sighed, “Someone I found in the woods by himself. I…” She went all quiet, too. She waited for a long time before she found the words she lost while grabbing the cloths, and a towel. “I just wanted to give him a place to rest. Now, excuse me, dears. I need to go see him.” She walked past us back out to the dining room.
The man was wiggling slower now. Hismoans were more quiet, and longer, too. Mama
started poking him with the sticks and wrapping him in the cloths. He flinched a lot. He didn’t like the poking. Bro didn’t like it either. He didn’t stay to watch. He went back outside through the side door.
“Keep your eyes on your brother for me, please,” Mama asked. She wanted to stay with the man.
“He won’t go in the woods. He doesn’t like them…”
“Please.” Mama was fast again, this time even with words. She shifted and blocked me from seeing the Man.
I walked to the side door and peeped through. Bro was just looking through the grass. I think he was looking for more worms. I couldn’t hear him through the door. I heard nothing.
I turned around. The Man had stopped making his moans. He wasn’t wigglin’ much
anymore. He was calmer now. Mama stood still. Stiller than he was, even. I didn’t know if I should speak again, but the quiet always makes me nervous. “Mama? Why did he stop making the noises?”
I dunno what Mama was doin’ before I asked. She did a little cough, or maybe a gasp. The towel was very wet. She didn’t speak. “Mama?” Then she turned around, all slow like. She looked for a long time. I don’t remember the last time Mama stared. She always said it was bad to stare. We stood for a long time while nobody made their noises.
“I’m going to find another place for him to rest.” Mama had finally found more of her words. “He’ll be better suited in the woods. Stay by the cottage and wait for me to come back, please.” She picked the Man up all slowly and walked with him. She took very small steps. She went through the side door past me. The man had a lot more cloths and more of those dark brown spots on his blue clothes like before. Some of them were on the cloths. He was very dirty.
I walked outside to watch Mama walk into the trees with the Man in her arms. Bro had stopped looking at the grass. He was watching Mama and the Man now. We both watched for a long time. I had never heard the outdoors be so quiet before.
Bro looked at me, and his eyes asked me if I knew who the Man was. I wanted to ask when Mama brought the Man, but I didn’t. I was distracted by all the shiny sticks and the cloths
and the dirt and the noises. We just looked on, thinking about who the Man was and why Mama found him in the woods. Men didn’t live in the woods. Even we didn’t live in the woods, just next to the woods.
Mama came back after a bit. Bro walked over for a hug. She hugged him like normal, no Man to occupy her arms.
“Where is he, Mama?” I had to ask. She looked up, then back down, then back to the woods, and back to me.
“He’s off where he belongs, sweetheart.” I was confused. Why did he belong in the woods?
“But Mama. We don’t belong in the Woods. Why does he belong in the Woods?”
Mama made that strange gasp-cough sound again. She walked up closely and got on a knee. “He fits better in the woods. After some more rest, he’ll be walking to his next place where he’s meant to be. You’ll learn more about it when you grow big.” She walked us all back to the cottage. I looked back at the Woods.
I’m still looking at the Woods, watching for the Man. I wonder where his next place is. Maybe I’ll find him when I grow big like Mama says. Maybe when I can walk into the Woods like Papa used to, I can find the Man and see where he is. I want to know more about the Man. I want to know if he went down the same paths in the Woods that Papa went down. Maybe he even knows where Papa is walking out in the Woods too.