The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions | Matrakedia



By Rob Ehle

The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions has been conceived as a monthly random match of mortal sin with family member to create a helpful home reference, not unlike the Merck Manual or the DSM IV.

He is twenty-five and she is forty, and her little girl does not know about him. She goes to church with her family. There they lift their hands. She prays for her daughter, for the husband she loves, and an ill-favored friend wonders, Why does she pray at all? She is so pretty. She is already so happy. There are nineteen shoes in her closet. Sometimes when she has had too much wine, her husband can still get her to do the things they used to do. There is a dress she looks for and just her looking arouses him, her fingers along the linen and silk. She gave him away, that boy now ten years older than she was when she did it. As her parents put it, “ill-equipped.” If she does not pray for the twenty-five-year-old, does it mean she doesn’t love him? If her husband doesn’t know, is it some odd sort of adultery? Her daughter has left her mother’s sandal behind the toy box. This is what you don’t understand about love, both its focus and its failing, how like it is to despair, how easily one surrender becomes another. “Where is my other shoe?” The husband is buttering his toast. Her little girl is reading a box. There really is no God to pray to, but church for her is like two cupped hands. She nestles there and can so quickly forget she needs anything else. Can a mother forget a child? That isn’t the matter. There is a canoe. She paddles in front, her husband in back, and between them the girl reaching for the buckeye blooms. Don’t tip! Her finger just touches the torch of blossom, but when she closes her hand she is no longer touching, and then they have passed, and it is past, and that’s what’s the matter.


Rob Ehle’s project, The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions, is appearing monthly on The Owls site.


One comment

  1. ‘…There really is no God to pray to, but church for her is like two cupped hands…’


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