The radish wept in the dismal alcove, never alive, never together, never more than a biting, horrid uncertainty of tubers and greens.
It had a salty heart and would never know another.
Cathleen had awoken from her rest and listened to the silence of the house around her, dreaming of a good day, and for a time it seemed her dream would be more than a dream, would be a simple everyday day, nothing special but nothing horrid either. She heard the screaming and hissing and the creaking of the tiny laughing fools, and she though of history, and she wrenched herself free of her ideas about what might have happened before the sounds came.
Before the children discovered the snakes in the common pantry, Cathleen had hoped the day would be, for once, a tolerable segment of her life. Very little in her life had been tolerable, lately. She dimly recognized this perhaps was due to a decreasing capacity for toleration within herself, a lack of sleep, a bone weary brittleness permeating simply every level of her eyes and hands and ears and cetera. She judged herself for this weakness, harshly, for it manifested in her snapping at the children and weak adults and animals and even the tools which were only there to help, to help anyone who needed help, after all. They none of them deserved being snapped at. It wasn’t their fault.
But she shouldn’t have been so harsh with herself; it’s never just one person or thing to blame – never just one of the world or myself, the snakes or Cathleen, the child or the family, the nature or the nurture – it’s always a dance between the two, no matter how much the blame lies in a one or another, and blame isn’t ever quite the right model to assign here anyway. Or anywhere. Not in the long run.
The snakes were hungry for food, and there was an enormous colony of voles hidden inside the back walls of the common pantry. Cath did not yet know about the voles, nobody of age did, in fact, for the children had kept the growing colony a secret from all the adults, even Rainer who was so friendly. They had brought their new rodential friends treats and toys for ages now, generations of voles, even taking over command of meal preparation and dish washing from Cathleen and Nadia, who were happy to see the children taking on chores without being forced to, and too overwhelmed with meetings and spreadsheets and planning to suspect schemes from ones so small and generally exteriorized from their mental frames.
But now there was the screaming, and at a simple morning feeding, that most natural of foreign policies. And Cathleen would have to explain what food was and where it came from. She sighed, but this was what she had trained for. She was prepared.