The Eggshell Floor

How long would it take for grass to cover the dirt? How long before people would walk past the headstone without a second glance? How long before they stopped bringing flowers?

Imogen Beatty. Loving wife, mother, and grandmother. RIP.

Three lines weren’t enough for someone’s life. Dylan reached down to trace his grandma’s name. She was so much more than three lines on a rock.


He didn’t turn, knowing Aida would wait until he was ready. He swiped a hand across his face, wiping up stray tears.

“Hey,” he said softly, adjusting his stance so Aida could see the headstone too.

“What are you thinking?” she asked, folding her hands.

Too many things. And nothing.

“Do you think she would’ve liked it?” His voice shook.

Aida looked at him sideways. “The music, yeah. The people?” She paused, glancing over her shoulder at the dispersing crowd. “Maybe not.”

He chuckled, not quite looking up yet.

“Where’s your mom?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

They stood in silence for another minute.

“What are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know,” he said again. “Go home, I guess. Keep going.”

He turned away from the fresh dirt. The tears had dried up. All of his emotions dried up. He was numb, right down to his core.

He started walking toward the graveyard entrance. The bright sun flashed through the trees and he wished for drizzly rain. Proper weather for a proper funeral.

Aida followed him. “But, your mom,” she said, a few steps behind. “Isn’t she— aren’t you—” She stopped. “It won’t be the same, Dylan.”

“Sure it will. It’ll take time to get used to without Grandma. But it’ll be the same soon enough.”

Aida was quiet for the rest of the walk. They reached the crowd. Dylan kept his eyes on the ground, hoping to discourage mourners from talking to him.

“I can’t see your mom,” she said, peering around the people.

“She might have left already.”

“My parents can drive you home.”

He nodded. He was thinking about school on Monday. The teachers looking all somber, the other kids unsure about how to act, what to say. Maybe he wouldn’t have to go.

In the car, Aida’s parents spoke in muted tones about the funeral, the people, the weather. To Dylan, they said little.

“Do you have another relative coming soon?” Aida’s dad asked, checking the rearview mirror. “I met some nice ones today.”

“No,” Dylan replied, staring out the window.

“Honey, if you ever need anything, or need us to… call someone, just come on over, okay?” Aida’s mom craned her neck to meet his eyes. She nodded like he had responded.

“I don’t like a child all alone with that woman,” she whispered to her husband. She snuck a quick peek at Dylan. “It’s not right. She’s not right.”

“We can’t get involved, Sadie,” Aida’s dad said. “Not while she’s his legal guardian.”

Dylan thought hard about rain. If he thought about it hard enough, it might start. The window would be much more interesting with raindrops streaming across it.

“Mom, Dad,” Aida hissed. “We can hear you.”

He tuned out the conversation, a little trick he’d learned for when Grandma blasted bagpipe music and he didn’t have his headphones.

The view out the window became familiar. The car turned a corner into their neighborhood. First house on the left, Dylan recited in his head. On day one of grade school, Grandma made him say that back to her ten times before she let him on the bus.

Aida’s father pulled into Dylan’s driveway.

“Oh my,” said Aida’s mom, covering her mouth with one hand.

His mother was in the flowerbed. He unlocked the car door and jumped out without a word to Aida or her parents. Three steps up the driveway and he was with her.


He knelt in the grass next to the flowerbed. His mother had smears of dirt on her face, in her hair, on her clothes. Her nails were caked with soil. She was sitting on her legs, spooning the mulch onto her lap.

She smiled at him. “Hello, sweetheart.”

“What are you doing?”

She trailed one muddy hand over the ground, entranced.


“I wanted to see how she feels now,” she said.

Dylan nodded slowly and sat beside her. He touched the dirt lightly.

“What does it feel like?”

“It’s… cool. Wet. Soft,” she murmured, closing her eyes. “Peaceful, I think.”

He smiled for the first time that day. Another minute passed as he watched his mother in the soil. The hairs on his neck prickled.

He turned to see Aida’s parents still in the driveway, gawking out the windows. Mrs. Patterson from two doors over was paused, her yappy little dog sniffing at the edge of their lawn. He didn’t wait to see who else would show up.

“Come on, Mom.”

She didn’t protest as he gently pulled her to her feet and led her inside the house.

Two weeks later, Dylan sat on the porch steps with Aida.

“She’s doing worse.” He stared at his hands in his lap. “Half the time I’m not even sure where she is.”

“I’ve seen her outside,” Aida said slowly. “Doing… things.”

“Like what?” he asked, then quickly shook his head. “No, I don’t want to know.”

Aida lay a hand on his. Her dark hair fell into her eyes as she met his gaze. “Dylan, I’m here if you need anything.”

He stood abruptly. “I’m fine. We’re fine. Don’t say anything, okay?”

He hurried inside and shut the door without looking at her. Several seconds later, he heard the sound of her descending the stairs and walking down the driveway. The door creaked as he leaned his head against it.

A knock had him leaping away, gasping. Shaking out his hands, he opened the door.


A familiar man stood in the doorway, holding an old suitcase. He smiled at Dylan and opened his arms wide.

“Look how you’ve grown!” the man cried, hugging Dylan with a tight grip. The suitcase pressed into his back painfully.

Dylan wriggled free. “Who are you?”

“I’m your Uncle Seamus. You don’t remember me, kiddo?”

He shrugged. The man — Uncle Seamus — was familiar-looking, and his hint of an Irish accent suggested he was related to Grandma.

“Is your mother around?” Uncle Seamus asked, dropping his case and heading into the house.

“I’m not sure. Why are you here?” Dylan said, skirting around the suitcase. He followed his uncle into the kitchen.

Uncle Seamus was examining the cupboards intensely, his mouth hanging slightly open.

“I’ll be staying with you folks for a little while,” he said, grinning. “Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

It didn’t, and it wasn’t. For the rest of the day and evening, Seamus bored Dylan and his mother with stories of the investment company he worked for. His mother smiled and nodded, winking at Dylan when Seamus’ back was turned.

The next morning, Dylan dragged himself out of bed, dreading breakfast with Uncle Seamus. Downstairs, he found several men speaking with his uncle.

“Who are these guys?” he asked. He peered around. “Where’s Mom?”

“These nice men are from the hospital,” Uncle Seamus said.

Dylan looked at them suspiciously. They wore white scrubs with little black nametags. He didn’t bother reading them.

“Where’s Mom?” he repeated.

“Your mother is sick,” Seamus said in a hushed tone, leaning close to Dylan’s face. “She’ll be at the hospital for a while. I’m going to stay here and take care of you.”

His stomach dropped. He wet his lips and forced his jaw to move. “Where is she? Can I see her? Can’t I go with her?”

“I’m afraid not, son,” said one of the men. “No visitors in the psychiatric ward.”


“Dylan,” Uncle Seamus called. He walked into the kitchen where Dylan stood, crunching on an apple. “I got another call from your school today. Were you fighting?”

Dylan shrugged and bit into his apple.

“Your teachers are worried. You’re acting out in class, your grades are dropping, and now fighting?” Seamus shook his head. “What’s gotten into you?”

He finished off the apple, chucking the core into the garbage can. He shrugged again.

“How did Elsie do it?” Uncle Seamus muttered.

Dylan flinched at his mom’s name. He crossed his arms and met Seamus’ gaze with a glare.

“Fine! If you won’t talk to me, I don’t know what to do.” The man stalked out of the kitchen, leaving Dylan alone, glaring at no one.

He dropped the glare, leaning against the counter. The scuffed tile floor seemed dirtier than usual. White tiles, stained from years of use.

His mom called it eggshell. She wouldn’t let anyone call it white.

“Eggshell is a spring day. What is white?” she used to say.

Dylan never saw the difference. White, eggshell, cream. It was all the same, really. Except it wasn’t to his mom. She saw the world in different colors, different terms. And they locked her up for it.

“Knock, knock,” said Aida, peering through the screen door.

“Come in.” He shifted to give her room to lean beside him.

“You’re fighting?” she said after a few seconds of silence.

He grunted.

“What is going on with you, Dylan? I barely recognize you anymore.”

His shoulders raised and dropped again in his newfound signature shrug. She slapped his right arm.

“Don’t do that. I’m sick of this,” she snapped.

“They took her,” he burst out, louder than he meant to. “They took her away and I don’t know why, and I can’t see her.”

He was shaking, staring at Aida with something desperate in his eyes.

“I know,” she said softly. “I know.” She touched his shoulder. “But this isn’t what she would want. Fighting? Dropping grades? You’re sitting here feeling sorry for yourself.”

“Don’t I have a right to?” he demanded.

“Sure. You can spend the rest of your life moping. Or you can pull yourself together and live a life your mom would be proud of. It’s your choice.”

She opened the screen door, pausing.

“I hope you make the right one.”

The door shut with a bang, rattling on its hinges. Dylan looked out the window at Aida’s back until she disappeared into her own house across the street. He kicked the doorframe, wanting to tear the ancient house apart.

The floor hadn’t changed, still a dusty, dingy faded white. No matter how he looked at it, no matter what angle, it didn’t change. It wasn’t eggshell.

His eyes fluttered closed. Memories of his mom floated through his mind. Her odd behavior. Her strange expressions. The way people stared at her and then quickly looked away. He knew she was different, but he’d never cared. He saw her the way she was meant to be seen. Someone incredibly unique, always joyful, always kind.

She saw the world in a way no one else could imagine. She saw hope where others saw despair. She saw opportunity where others saw defeat. She saw eggshell where others saw white.

Dylan opened his eyes. The floor hadn’t changed, but maybe that wasn’t the point. Maybe the floor would never change. But he could change how he saw it.

“Eggshell, Mom,” he whispered into the empty kitchen. “It’s eggshell.”