She lived a life with a house and playgroups, vacuum cleaners and birthday parties. Her children mixed flour and water, flooded the garden and molded mud pies. She spun with one child on her back, another in her arms. She was joyful with a sense of adventure not worthy of a wife of a house.
Her husband called on his way home from work. She scrubbed the children and scoured the house. She sent away her messy friends with their messier children. After dinner, he retreated to his childfree den while she put the children to bed. She kept her life of dancing and friends hidden.
Her two worlds shattered when her husband attended their children’s birthday party. She served baked flour and frozen sugar. The kids loved the food and even her vegan friend indulged.
Her husband disturbed the fun when he removed crumbs from the table with his dust buster while the guests were eating. Everyone left early before the gifts could be opened.
He told her, “The house is filthy. Be sure you clean the den tomorrow. Don’t forget to toss the papers near the printer.”
Straightening the den, she found her papers. Three computers ago, before becoming a mother, she had written. Unable to transfer her files from the ancient computer, she’d printed hard copies. The box held poems, fragments of a journal and bits of a novel. She had unfinished letters, an idea for a screenplay adaptation and limericks. She found recipes and decorating schemes. She put the box on her side of the closet in the bedroom.
Two weeks later, she found the papers ripped and torn. Silverfish ate her stories, poems and novel. She crushed the silverfish with her chipped fingernails. The wife used the dust buster to scoop up the insect shells. The whirring of the machine reminded her of the friends she’d lost after the birthday party.
They’d told her, “We won’t intrude on your perfect home. Join us for ‘Mom’s Night Out’ if he’ll let you.”
A single surviving silverfish stared at her. The wife tore her paper dust cloth into pieces to feed her.
“You will be my pet, Silva” she said.
Her husband didn’t allow a cat or dog. He said children were messy enough. Instead of wiping the kitchen counter, she’d take the paper towel to the bedroom to feed Silva. She read her surviving papers out loud. She sang and danced. She wrote more. The wife and Silva grew larger inside and out.
Seven weeks later, she was chaperoning a caravan of school children on a quest to the tuna fish factory. The husband stayed home from work. He blamed his wife’s inferior cleaning for his sneezing. Armed with his dust buster, he cleaned under the bed before opening the closet.
“This box should go to the dump.”
Silva escaped when he moved the box.
The husband grabbed clothes off hangers and tossed them into the box, saying, “She never wears this — she’s too fat.”
The husband picked up the overflowing box. The mouse-sized Silva leapt from the shadows and attacked him. The silverfish fought savagely. He whacked the insect with the dust buster, tearing her into shreds. He struck her tattered body again, and again. The Shreds of Silva were too large to be vacuumed and the dust buster was broken.
“I’ll take this box to the dump and buy a new dust buster on the way home.” he said.
She returned home and found her box of dreams and desires missing. She cried for the times she had not cried before. She scooped up the Shreds of Silva from the closet floor. She dumped the pieces of her pet into the printer. She never wanted to write again.
He noticed the printer had been broken, “I already took stuff to the dump, you can drop off the printer tomorrow.’
While at the dump, she saw her friend, Faye who was disposing of an outdated laptop in the electronics bin. Faye listened to the tale of Silva and the lost writings.
Faye told her, “If you wrote that novel once, you can write a better one again. We’ll take my laptop and your printer to Wise Woman Repair Shop.”
She lived happily ever after. She wrote her novel and left her husband. The spirit of the Shreds of Silva helped her printer churn for days and weeks, printing page after page.
Laura Beasley, the Grandmother who Tells Stories, lives in California. More than two dozen of her stories have been published.