Joanna Ruocco

Good Mood

I am in a good mood, but birds are in a bad mood. What’s up, birds? This morning I did the stretches I never do, the hamstring stretches. I made peace—goddammit!—with my hamstrings, but I could see through the picture window birds out there between the daisies tugging up hamstrings—cutting them up! My good mood was such that I responded with pure non-violent locomotion. I went out for a run, a nice long run, in one place. Beside the Quietness rose, I ran my personal best. The Quietness rose, the color of a stillborn foal, did not depress me. Goddammit, I was in a good mood, running, loudly running, huffing and puffing, yelling, punching the air. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Check out this ponytail, birds! Afterwards, I napped with my daughter. I rolled over her on purpose and mangled her a little, which made me love her more. Someday, she’ll move away, my daughter, and I’ll call her. I’ll call her day and night. I’ll call my daughter, and she’ll pick up the phone. She’ll say, What’s up, Mother? It’s a beautiful day or night! When my mother calls me, I pick up the phone. That’s love, birds! Today my mother called during my nap with my daughter. “You should watch the show I’m watching,” said my mother. “The actress is sexual as a horse. She looks just like Naomi. Do you hear from Naomi?” “Not since kindergarten, Mother,” I said. “It must be Naomi,” said my mother. “Do you remember—I’d put you in the tub, then I’d get in the tub. I’d jump in the tub. I’d splash in the warm, sudsy water. I’d make believe I was giving birth, giving birth to Naomi! It felt goddamn good!” I left my daughter a little mangled in the bed. I used my computer to put on that show, a hospital show. I did the dishes, whistling, with the show in the background. Glass, blood, moan, glass, blood, moan. It was an emergency, goddammit! Now I’m on the front porch. The good mood I’m in fits me like a fingerless glove. I’m so free, birds! My mother calls and I pick up the phone. “What’s up, Mother?” “I’ve still got it,” says my mother. “Listen.” My mother does her patterned breathing. “Who. Hee. Puh. Ha. Who. Hee. Puh. Ha.” “Mother, I love you!” Birds fly into the picture window and die. I can tell they feel bad. Why, birds? I don’t feel bad knocking my head. I don’t feel bad being dead on a porch, in the summer. It feels sexual but nice. It feels like girls mixing paste in my milk because those girls know I like paste. It feels like kissing someone and my lips stick to that someone forever. It feels like the best mood, my personal best! Birds are laying posthumous eggs on the porch. Every minute, new birds are hatching with wet wings, stiff legs, these tiny frowning beaks that prove you don’t get it, birds! My ponytail stirs in the wind. The Quietness rose flutters its lashes. Inside the house, my daughter is napping, perfectly still, her hoof in her mouth.

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Joanna Ruocco is the author of several books, including, most recently, The Week (The Elephants of British Columbia), Field Glass (Sidebrow Books), written with Joanna Howard, and Dan (Dorothy, a publishing project). Her novel, Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith: A Diptych won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. She also works pseudonymously. Under her current nome de plume, Joanna Lowell, she published Dark Season, a Gothic romance. She is an associate professor in the English Department at Wake Forest University and chair of the board of directors of the independent, author-run press FC2