Ellen’s Chair

This entry is part 15 of 16 in the series Issue VI: Fall 2010

by Ann Quintano

Ellen sat on the green upholstered chair in the living room. She had been left there by her mother who admonished her to be still, not to fidget, nor mumble out either her boredom or her comfort. For as long as possible, Ellen kept her thin legs tight together until her thighs began to twitch. Her hands-intertwined and settled in her lap-were moist and nearly numb. She left her eyes begin to move about the room careful to keep her head still, straight, attentive.

There were two doors she let her eyes play with first. Both were dark wood, ominous and foreboding except where Ellen found flaws-the chipped wood near the worn doorknob; the varnish that gave way to bare wood. She knew where each door led. The one on the left near the bookcase that met a corner wall-a wall which in turn ran into a long wall with a picture window- that door led to the small parlor right off the inaccessible main door of the brownstone where she was trapped and silenced. The other door, narrower, more welcoming opened to a short hallway off which the kitchen sat empty of kitchen smells empty of any sightings of peaches, nectarines, bright yellow bananas speckled with brown. Ellen mused that the kitchen held no warmth of muffins and their ubiquitous crumbs; a glass of milk never saw the counter, a crumbled napkin was missing. The counter was dull and lifeless.

Ellen moved back into her body from the exploration to feel her toes gone tingling and numb. She imagined her laces too tight on her sneakers- imagined the blood fleeing from her feet, strangled as they were, her feet dying, shriveling-up, then falling off. She would never be able to move again: to walk a hall, to find a door.

Ellen felt heat rise in her face cupping it in beads of perspiration and the moisture, reminiscent of tears, pooled in her dark brown eyes. She longed to wipe them dry but found her hands unable to move and sweaty in a way that dampened her skirt which billowed out in so much red and yellow and here and there stuck to her thighs.

Ellen imagined her way out the window, down the chiseled stone steps and into 84th Street where the pavement greeted her in mottled grays and led the way to the corner Mr. Softee truck.

She was drawn back by the sounds of footsteps in the kitchen: the tap of heels on the tile floor-the opening squeak of a cabinet door then a drawer. She managed to calm herself, reassure herself that no one was drawing a knife out of the drawer to slice her into tiny bits and leave her remains on the musty , frayed carpet that sat beneath her feet. She imagined her mother’s face tightened in anger that distorted her with lines and crevices not there before; with hard edges against which her dark hair flattened and flew off alternately. Her teeth were bared, saliva caught in the corners of her mouth and she had grown expansive, full and tall.

Ellen heard the door open slowly and her mother moved on her high heels toward her, her steps quieted by the carpet. She stopped in front of Ellen and the green upholstered chair.
“Okay, honey,” she said in a comfortably modulated voice. “Time out is over, You can go outside to play now. Oh, and here…,” she dug into her picket. “Here’s the two dollars fir a Mr. Softee.”

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