by Jeremy C. Shipp

Mama shames her way to the ninth layer of my inner hell. And even after all these years, I’m not ready for her. Because in this moldy basement, I’m still a boy, and my armor won’t fit.

So she unzips my torso.

Yanks out my innards.

Rummages through me with ravenous fingers.

“Your organs are filthy,” Mama says. “How often do you wash them?”

“What are you doing here?” I say. “This is my sanctuary.”

She snorts out a blast of hospital air. “You’re confusing words again, dear. Sanctuary’s don’t smell like cat urine and eat away at your soul.”

I don’t tell her how wrong she is. Instead, I say, “Leave me alone.”

She sniffs at my spleen. “Don’t blame me for this encounter, Steven. You invited me here.”

“That’s not true.”

But she shows me the rosy invitation printed on gold vellum.

“Shit,” I say.

Then Mama finds the heart.

Extends my baby teeth from her fingertips.


And she finds you, of course, because I’m too weak to protect you. She lifts you by your hair, and you say something about walls and emotional reactions and quality time. But you’re so small to me now, I can hardly hear you.

And I hate myself, because mama’s still so colossal, even in her tiny urn.

“She was supposed to be safe here,” I say, crying tears that taste like kisses.

“God,” Mama says. “You always were such a whiner.”

Then she chuckles, and swallows you whole.

6 thoughts on “invitation

  1. My basement is flooded and that’s not a metaphor, so my first reaction was oh no, not the basement. Love your writing. You certainly know how to get to the gut and beyond of your characters, descriptions, etc. I look forward to reading more of your work.

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