“I dreamed about Mia Manson last night,” I tell my psychiatrist.
“Mia Manson?” asks the Doc, who is a mirror image of me: tiny, long dark hair, small features. We both are dressed in long skirts.
“You know, Mia Manson… The Hollywood legend?”
In my dream, she’d worn a long white dress. Together we were climbing the spiral staircase in the center of my house. The stairs continually doubled back on themselves.
“You know, there’s a family secret!” I tell the Doc. “They used to tell me, when I was a little girl, that I was found on the doorstep, adopted or something. My real mother was Mia Manson! Or so they said.”
“Never heard of her,” says the Doc.
“Mmmm, that’s strange.” I thought everyone has heard of Mia Manson.
It began to snow as I left the doctor’s office. On the way to the Hospice, I click on the car radio. Mia Manson is dead, says the announcer. Mmmmm.
Mama’s body is on a bed, still breathing, but her mind has been on the other side for years. I climb onto the bed, hold her in my arms, my head against her heart as it stops beating. Her soul follows her consciousness, home. It is a relief after all these years she’s been little more than a vegetable. But now, I’ll never know if I’m really Mia Manson’s secret daughter.
Harvey, my ex-husband, is at the house with our son, Mike when I arrive. “We came soon as we heard,” says Mike.
“I’ll fix your furnace,” Harvey offers and disappears into the basement. I mother Mike by baking chocolate-chip cookies and mention in passing that Mia Manson died, same day as Mama. Mike is leaning against the counter. He pushes a lank of sandy hair from his eyes. “Oh, is she a friend of yours?” he asks.
I plop on a kitchen chair to wait for the cookies to bake. “Mia Manson… The movie star!”
He looks blank.
“Mmmmm, I can’t be that old…. You’re not that young! Mia Manson!”
“I can hear you!” Mike huffs. He was close to Mama; he’s extremely emotional about her passing, switching between anger and sorrow.
I lower my voice. “You know… She was in A Space in the Distance… Mmm, Darkfield 8? She was married six times! Married to the Governor? You know!”
“Oh… I can’t place her. How did she die?”
“Suicide, I guess. She overdosed.”
In the basement, Harvey’s swearing ricochets from the recesses of the furnace. I sit on the stairs, and when he’s seated beside me, I give him two cookies, still warm. “So what do you think– do I need a new furnace?”
Harvey explains the whole thing to me, the pipes and connections and blowers and how they each function, and relate to each other, too. Gesturing with greasy hands, he explains how he might fix my furnace. Finally he gets to where he tells me what I should do. “You should sell this house… then I could retire.”
“You are retired.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have to fix all the stuff wrong with your house,” he seethes.
My house, on the edge of the Erie canal, has thirteen rooms, each a different brilliant color. My house has gingerbread trim, and grapevines covering the stone walls and sloping porches. Gargoyles. A spiral staircase.
Harvey intones, “You’re nuts, holding onto this big old house. Living here alone is crazy…”
“Maybe we’ll have grandchildren some day,” I muse, seeing in my mind their spirits made of light, like fireflies.
“I doubt it.” Harvey rolls his eyes to indicate Mike upstairs. “Your only kid is gay.”
Oh, Harvey!” Harvey has other children. They aren’t gay.
He grunts. “This house is haunted.”
The soul of a woman wanders this house: Mama forever incarnate on a double-helix staircase, like DNA.
I can never leave.
Harvey goes back in to see if he can save the furnace.
“Did you hear Mia Manson died?” I call to him.
“Mia Manson! Come on… are you kidding? Child Star. Oscar winner… You know who Mia Manson is!”
He pulls his head out of the belly of the stove to speak to me, all excited. “She was that blond in the movie we saw at Tinsel Town! With that guy… What’s his name? The Nano Nano guy?”
“Robin Williams! No… Mia Manson was a famous sex-symbol. She was in Not Every Kind Of Frantic Humor. Dark hair, pale skin, purple eyes? Big boobs? …You must know who I’m talking about!”
“Yeah, I think I do. She died, huh?”
“Do you know who I mean?”
“This is strange! You’re the second… no, the third. My psychiatrist didn’t remember her either!”
“You still see that psychiatrist?” He tells me a story about his cousin Pete, who I don’t know, and a psychiatrist. Ditto. But it seems the psychiatrist drove Pete insane, and he did terrible things after that. He ends with, “What do you go to see her for?”
“I feel very alienated,” I call to him.
His head is back inside the hollow furnace. “Mmmmm.” His voice echoes, like a dirge spiraling endlessly.
After Harvey and Mike leave, I search the channels for news about Mia Manson’s death. Nothing. Mmmmm.
Thunder rumbles in the distance. Sitting halfway up the spiral staircase, I watch the storm approach over Lake Erie through stained glass. I call Fran, who lives across the road; she’s almost 80. She’ll remember Mia Manson.
Lightning and thunder merge in a sound wave, a low hum of scarlet. I ask Fran, “Did you hear that Mia Manson died?”
“Who? The bus driver, you mean?”
“No, the actress!”
“Never heard of her.” Lightning and a sonic boom of thunder. “I’m going to hang up, before I conduct lightning into my hip replacement!”
The connection crackles, the phone goes dead, the lights flicker, then go out. The atmosphere shakes the ground with sound waves. A light as pure as God illuminates the whole space.
A voice from the tv says, “Mmmmmm,” and then silence.
Time seems to slow, stop. The phone rings. I still have the receiver clutched in my hand. Hit the button, quickly say, “Mmmmm?”
“Mmmmm. Mia?” A male voice.
I realize I’ve been holding my breath. “Wrong number. This is 555-0151.”.
“Yeah, that’s right! Is this Mia Manson?”
“Mmmmm…” I think one second, then say, “Yes.”
“This is John Hudnut. The detective you hired to find your secret daughter.” The wind reaches a banshee shriek. Lightning and thunder are simultaneous.
“I’m sorry to tell you…”
“She’s dead,” I breathe.
“It was suicide. MM overdosed.”
“Mmmmmm, it’s strange,” I moan. “I had a dream about her last night. And you say she’s dead… I didn’t know that. Mmmmm.”
The phone falls– or does it pass through, my hand? I don’t know. Maybe I’m dreaming. Mia Manson and I are climbing the staircase shaped like a helix, doubling back on itself. In my dreammm.
Mariev Finnegan – I am Matriarch of the Erie. I live in upstate New York with my grandson, a three-legged dog and an owl. I’ve published in print and online venues.