“You are the ones who / were not recognized / in time although you / may have been waiting / in full sight in broad / day from the first step” – W. S. Merwin, “To the Mistakes”
If it couldn’t be helped, she would live with it. The coffee spill on the white linen tablecloth, the hot-pan burn on the kitchen counter, the rain-leak stains on the bedroom ceiling. She lay down at night and the splotchy stains seemed to glow in the light from the streetlamp outside. The stains glowed like a UFO landing on the planet from another part of the galaxy.
Somehow she got the idea that the stains on the bedroom ceiling were a portal to another world. She thought she heard the calling of children through the irregular amber-rimmed shapes on the ceiling. Mother! Mother! they seemed to say.
She borrowed a saber saw from Mr. Jensen in the apartment down the hall, got on a stepladder and climbed up to where the stains lay on the ceiling like so many giant amoebas. She could hear them now, the high-pitched innocent voices of youngsters calling to her.
The power saw growled in her grasp, its saber-tooth finger gnawing through the plaster as it cut a hole overhead. White plaster dust speckled down on her cheeks, prickled her eyes, clogged her throat. Still she went on.
Before she was finished there was banging on her apartment door. “Whaddya doing in there?” came the voice of Antoine, the building super. “Hey! Mrs. Daillert! Open up!” he shouted. She shut her ears and continued her task.
Now she could hear the children even more clearly. Mother! Mother! They called. She knew them. They were calling to her, she was sure of it.
When help arrived, they took her to the usual place. The people in charge said they could not hold her for more than 72 hours. She was lucky, they said. They had a bed for her.