holy mother

Written by Nicole Mousicos
Art by Couleur

The sandwich will not go down. If they were to find her now, she would be digesting a handful of beef, slush tomatoes, cucumber, and a squished bread roll. It would be a massacre. Darcy holds the sandwich and thinks of each bite, every molar and incisor, canines and premolars working away in lieu of her tongue, slapping wet and stimulated against the cave of her mouth. She holds the sandwich and spots the focused eyes upon her, the ends of conversations lingering with grease and cheap surface cleaner. Elbows propped upright against the cafeteria table, she licks her lips and smiles, until the girls from the table in front have gone wide-eyed, skittered back and stumbled to face each other once more, those little elasticated tubes of meat. Darcy Moyes. Olivia Moyes was her mother. The one who poisoned those cancer patients. Darcy continues to eat, licking the extra mayonnaise from her pink fingers. 

What she would like to tell people about her mother, disregarding the mutters and shouts of the press that had managed half of the story wrong, was that it had not been a group of cancer patients but the gastroenterology ward: gas-tro-ent-e-ro-lo-gy. She doubted any of the idiots in her class could even spell it. Secondly, there was no poison involved, so asking Darcy if she liked arsenic in her sandwiches was not even a logical insult (and arsenic is a liquid, too, so what was that even about—how could you put liquid in a sandwich?). Lastly, and perhaps the part that irritated Darcy the most, was the past tense. Was her mother. Olivia Moyes, known as ‘Olive’ to her close friends, was a renowned serial killer. Her mother is somewhere, awaiting trial, not was. Yet, it was Darcy who was sent home from school that week for clapping loudly and telling her classmates to pay attention when their French teacher began teaching the present tense. 

Darcy rises now, half of the food left sprawling on her tray. As she walks, she feels a group of eyes following her, their whispers like knives swiping for blood. Finding her way back to the classroom, she thinks of all the food floating in her stomach; the acid at work; the churning of her intestines; the pumping pancreas. Her mother had liked talking about her job, even when they were eating at the dinner table and Darcy’s father tried to make her stop. She always loved how her mother would make eye contact with her from across the mashed potatoes and creamy cauliflower, a twinkle of delight in her eye as she said it. 

“Darcy isn’t squeamish like you boys. She doesn’t mind, do you, my love?” 

And it was true; Darcy was never phased by anything her mother said, not like her father or Josh, her younger brother. She could understand her mother better than anyone else. Can. It was this thought that clung to her when the police came to take her mother away, strapping her hands behind her back and leaving the spaghetti bolognese messy and half-eaten on her plate, tomato sauce lining her lips—she always did need a napkin nearby. Does, does. And later, seeing her through the glass, her face thinner and her eyes darkened within their sockets, when she said, “You know why I did it, don’t you, Darcy?” 

And she nodded and nodded, yes, of course she did. 

Leaving school and making her way home, Darcy can smell trees and petrol. She grips her stomach as she walks, gritting her teeth at the pressing and straining of her abdomen. Along the walk home she passes through the local park, with children still in their uniforms swinging past on monkey bars and jumping up and down on the seesaw. There is laughter and coldness in the air. Darcy takes a seat on the cold bench, holding her growling stomach as if it were a wild beast. A ball rolls past her feet. The mother who jogs over to pick it up does so tentatively, a smile of apology becoming that of crumpled eyebrows, at once recognising Darcy and wanting to get away, but also being unable to move. Eventually, her daughter calls her back and she stumbles, breaking into another jog and swooping her in one go, turning again to glare in Darcy’s direction. Not long after, all the other mothers were staring, and muttering curses to each other as they drew their kids away from the park. The parents who stay talk amongst themselves—her mother was a killer, killed all those people—and she fights the urge to scream, is, is, IS. 

Cold-lipped, she watches the frogs jitter along the frozen pond, imagining their legs dipped in batter and fried, like the chips her father makes. The ice shimmies, their small legs slimy and soft. She feels the crunch between her teeth, the bitter and wet taste that would splay along her tongue. She and her mother had been the only ones to try the snails in Paris, licking their lips to retain the aftertaste. Later, they’d gone back for seconds, just the two of them. Now, the frogs went still, eyes wide and skin silver. She watches them all there, some massacre, and her stomach eases.