by Matthew Sanborn Smith
My mother was whole and solid when she brought me into this world. She began disintegrating almost immediately, going up in smoke until, twenty-seven years later, there was nothing left of her. She never saw it coming, didn't acknowledge what was happening even when I sat screaming at a pair of smoking thumbs floating in our little living room.
After she left, her ashy essence remained, choking our drapes, our linens, our car upholstery. Our lungs. Our blood. So full of her were we, it begged the question: Had we ever been fully ourselves? But one Christmas eve, I came home to find my father on his knees, desperately snorting the throw pillows to reclaim their acrid stench and only then I understood what we really were.
My father fell to the floor and a rush of smoke filled the air above him, stirred up by the seat of his pants. Through burning eyes I looked down, noticed for the first time that most of my mid-section no longer existed. I picked my father up from the floor and took him outside. I left the door open to air out the house.