After The Moroccans by Henri Matisse
Mother made them each one, little ones, but she made hers big enough for triplets, and they all crawled in with her when they knew he'd taken enough that he'd be out for at least the rest of the night and maybe all the next day, too.
Daddy would think, if he ever thought about them at all, that they were just beanbag chairs or something like that. He was so used to seeing them lying around in the kids' room that it would never have occurred to him to kick one or shake it.
Mother's was the only one big enough to get them in trouble and she kept it in the back of the closet to use when there was no chance of being caught.
They knew how to stay quiet and hardly breathe at all. Sometimes they even got in them when he was home and didn't breathe enough to move the sides when he stumbled around shouting where the hell were the goddamn kids, and they had to stop this staying with friends, it wasn't like they were a family at all.
The balls were made of silky cloth thickly padded with foam, stitched into almost round shapes. An opening with elastic let them crawl inside and let air in although a flap came down over it and made the ball look perfectly round.
Inside each one, curled up as compact and warm as a baby inside its mother, was one of the children. They knew not to expect to get in with Mother when Daddy was awake. He'd be sure to notice such a big ball. They understood that.
You put things like balls behind you, date, work as support staff for a stockbroker, buy nice clothes, go to clubs on Saturday night.
You never talk to your sister because she knows.
You call on her birthday as she does on yours. You send cards and small elegant gifts on Christmas and birthdays. Sometimes you each get a phone call in the night. No one says much but you stay on the line for a while.
You like winter clothes, the covering of them, are uneasy in summer's shorts and sandals.
"You're so silly. Why do you sleep with your head under the covers. Someday you're going to suffocate."
He didn't explain, reached up for her, gently pulled her down under with him, curled around her like two spoons in a drawer.
"No, I won't. See, you always leave a little fresh air crack, like this, and that's your lifeline."
It was some time before he woke up one morning, his head out of the covers and resting on her warm silky shoulder, her other arm wrapped around him.
In a way, he yearned to go back under but it was nice to open his eyes to sunshine bouncing around the room.
He felt his body responding to her soft warmth and understood now there was this new way.
About the author:
Tree Riesener has published poetry and short fiction in the United States and abroad. She was a Semi-Finalist in the Pablo Neruda Competition and has had three works produced by InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia. She is the Managing Editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal and the author of Liminalog, a chapbook of ghazals and sijo.