An Excerpt from CRAZY: “Art Exhibition”

In celebratory anticipation of the release of my debut book, CRAZY, about one year from now, I offer this second excerpt.  (See Excerpts tab for the first one)






First thing inside the door

I smell turpentine.

I nearly trip over a wet canvas

propped against the door frame.

I follow a trail of smudgy rags

and scattered paint tubes

into the living room

where I find Mama,

her back to me,



crossing herself

before a dripping canvas.

She’s been painting again!


“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . . ”


A sickening sense of panic begins

crawling up my spine.

“What’s going on, Mama?”  I ask.


“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . .”


I’m not sure she heard me

so I move toward her,

bending down to look into her face

and I say it slower


trying to connect with her eyes.

“Mama, what’s     going        on?”


“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . .


I reach out to shake her,

maybe even slap her,

do something to snap her out of it

and get her attention

when she stops


faces me,

looking past me


signaling me

to be silent.

“Mary’s my sister,


She’s coming,

coming for a visit. . . and I,

I must finish getting the house

ready for her visit.

Be a good girl now,

won’t you?

Go clean your room

so you will be ready

when she comes,


ready when she comes,

when Mary comes to our house

see, when Mary—

Oh, I can’t find my alizarin

and I need it—

I have to have it NOW,

have to paint, now, NOW!

Do you see it here


So I can paint Mary

before she comes,

see. . .”


She passes grubby hands absently

through her disheveled hair,

leaving multi-colored streaks

and smudges on her face

and she begins crawling on the floor

agitated, frantic

looking for the missing paint

or who knows what.


The clock says Daddy won’t be home

for another hour.

I call Paula, but she has to pick Kim up at school.

She says to get Mama quiet

until Daddy comes home,

and then call her back.


Then it hits me.

This is my fault.

I caused this.

I pushed her over the edge,

oh my God,

I did this.

It was my suggestion,

take up painting again, I’d said–

Oh my God.  . .


I clean up the mess as best I can,

finally get Mama to sit down in her rocker.

Still paint splattered,

she rocks

back and forth



staring past me

without recognition.


I watch her rock

almost in rhythm

with the ticking wall clock

and I take deep breaths

trying to match the rhythm,

trying to beat down

the panic

surging through

my body.



An Excerpt from CRAZY: “Art Exhibition” — 6 Comments

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