Lorraine’s childhood is marred by the alcoholism of her mother. However, she does have a few happy memories, and the sound of popping soap bubbles is one of them. This passage is also the earliest indication that Lorraine has acute auditory awareness. She has “an ear.” The sound of a particular raindrop can tell her it’s time to leave; a hymn, sung too loudly or intensely, can lock her in an auditory nightmare. The following excerpt is that of an early, happier time, bringing to mind the other sounds of her childhood.
The press started up early; each weekday, I awoke to a constant clicking. Perhaps that’s why images of my childhood are triggered by sounds. Besides the press, there was the wind in the hollowed-out gourds Mother hung on the porch. Martins were supposed to nest there, but they didn’t because Grandma was always banging in and out. Next came the sound of Chum, the neighborhood bulldog, panting and grunting as he followed the mailman. Then, a tremendous wheeze when Chum flopped down, usually in front of our house. Finally, there was the sound of bubbles. Let me tell you about them.
Every morning Mother would make a batch of bubbles. She filled a pan with warm water, squeezed in a bit of glycerin followed by a glob of Ivory Snow. The bottom of the pan was dented; it rocked gently on the linoleum floor. Mother always set it down with a sigh. I always held my breath. You see, the placing of the pan was invested with secret meaning. If the water spilled out, it meant the bubbles would be lazy, heavy, too oily to rise. If the waves sloshed just to the rim, it would be a good batch.
Imagine a hot summer morning. Imagine the motions of a small mountain town. The pan has been set on the floor, and the water has sloshed safely. In the kitchen is the drip from the faucet and the hum of the second-hand Frigidaire. I’m sitting on the floor with my legs splayed in a V, waiting. Mother is moving about in the next room, then I hear her shut the door to the bath. More sounds of water running. The mixture waits in a spiraled glob in the bottom of the pan. At last, the sound of her body in the tub. I stick my finger in the pan and begin to swirl slowly, but when the bubbles come, it’s just too much. I make bubble lips and bubble moustaches, mountains of bubbles pile up on the kitchen floor. I watch iridescent bubbles roll on the air until I can stand it no longer and jump up, clapping my hands to make them pop. I should remember the smell, but I don’t, only the light, pinprick popping. On some days, so many and fast it sounded like rain. Sounds only— of my mother singing, of my bubble kisses, of her hips as the wet skin shifted against the enamel of the claw-foot tub.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the previews. Silver Bottle is now available on Kindle and Amazon.