And, after dinner, the maid puts the family away like linens. She creases each member along their wrinkles and angles, edges and curves. The children are folded like origami birds for good luck and sweet dreams, and the parents are stacked one on top of the other; tissue-thin, double-thickness. The grandmother is long and narrow and must be rolled, yellow stains turned inward like shame.
As time wears on, the shelves in the linen closet give more to the family than a just place to sleep—they are a refuge, a hideaway, a vacation home. The ledges groan with time and from the children’s growing, so it is more and more difficult for the maid to get them up in the morning. She grows old with the effort.
She must admit now that she does a less efficient job when she tucks them in at night; the children want to be folded into origami computers, and that’s only the beginning. The parents are forever slipping their own neat stack of selves to tangle up in each other. There is slippage and mismatching and nothing remains where it was. This makes it hard for the maid to separate the parents in the morning. As for the grandmother, she has her own problems. She has curled into a stiff ball that cannot be straightened out and re-rolled, for fear of breakage.
The maid comes to believe she could never leave this family—her family. She’d have to get another job, and she’s so bad at this one. But a sense of time unfolding pulls at her, and one night, after she’s tucked her people in, she slams the closet door on them and locks it; she opens it again almost immediately, like a last word snatched back. She quickly spreads out a large blanket and wraps the stunned family in it, knotting the corners, east to west, north to south. She slings the bundle over her shoulder. She calls it the past and drags it with her in the direction of the sun.
Cheryl Snell is the author of six collections of poetry and two novels. Her latest poetry collaboration, Geometries, is out now from Moria Books. Snell’s work has appeared in many journals and a few anthologies, including a Sundress Best of the Net. She lives in the Maryland suburbs, keeps a blog called Scattered Light, and plays a mean classical piano.