Fiction / Megan Milks
:: Storm Room, or, Participatory Theater with Moms ::
PARTICIPANTS will enter one by one and form a line against the front curtain. Posture, posture. Face the audience. Face your scripts.
You are our MOTHERS. Your job is to love us.
MOTHERS (nod): We do.
You will splash birth on the stage, shove this cord up your anuses. We take one end in our mouths.
We suck. We should be grateful. We’re not. We never wanted mothers at all but HEROES WHO LIFT CARS TO SAVE US.
MOTHERS: We are not your mothers.
Everyone is our mothers. You are our mothers, too. Hug, hug, kissylips. Curtain lifts.
FIRST ROOM, CENTER ROOM: STORM ROOM
We have learned through correction that the sunroom is not the storm room. Sunrooms have windows. Storm rooms do not. You called the sunroom the storm room. You gave us the wrong name.
Now we’re the storm room. We storm and storm.
The GIRL IN THE WELL WITH HAIR. The ABANDONED GIRL. The LEFT FOR DEAD GIRL. The SHADOW GIRL. The BELOVED GIRL. THE BELOVED DAUGHTER. The UNGIRL. The NOT-YOU, the NOT-YOU.
All skipping around THE MOTHERS. A storm.
We sing. The cockaroach is the cockroach. The dirtypillows are tits. The catten is the kitten. Brownies are not blonde. You are our mothers. We don’t know how to speak. How to find a word or mean a thing. How to be rich.
SECOND ROOM: BATHROOM
MOTHERS you will take off our shirts and underpants and lift us into the tub. Lift strong like HEROES WHO LIFT CARS.
We will be curious as we settle in. We will have realization. Splash. The bath water is like the toilet water. We will try it. Push.
MOTHERS: Fish out our shit. Then say yes. There are logical reasons to do that. We are not wrong. This is love. What you are doing. Thanks.
The GOOD MOTHER, the BAD MOTHER, the EARTH MOTHER, the MOM, the SLUT MOTHER, the DEAD MOTHER, the GOD MOTHER, the MOM.
Go on. Murmur among yourselves.
We sing. How to have a body. How to cuddle on the couch. How to move away. How to have an argument. How to make sense. How to make doilies. How to use the internet to learn how to make doilies.
THIRD ROOM: FAMILY ROOM
We are looking at our reflection in the television. Suck in our gut it’s flat.
THE MOTHERS: (You will not make a comment on our body at this moment. You will not.)
MOTHERS: But you’d be so pretty if
Stop. We are so pretty. We are pretty girls.
No we are not; we are mannish, and men, aliens and monsters and murderers.
You will examine our faces and gloat at our little chin hairs. No you won’t.
How to bang our heads against the wall. How to speak on the body it’s ours. How to sew up our words they’re ours. How to take a dismemberment journey. How to choose an ax.
FOURTH ROOM: SAD
There will come a time of sadness. Our fever will burn us deeper than we will ever show to you.
MOTHERS: We understand.
You’ll never understand. We don’t know what to believe in.
MOTHERS: We don’t know who you are. You’re weird.
Ha. Admit it you’re lying about you love us no matter what. You’re lying about you’ll never stop loving.
MOTHERS: No. It’s true we love you no matter what. We love you even now you flash blades before us.
Love is a drug not words you say before knives. Conflict is inevitable. Violence is not. Stick to the script please. Please.
How to survive in neo-capitalist America. How to be enough. How to read Freud. How to pack a box or punch. How to be right. How to convince others that we are right. How to be butch. How to stop giggling.
THIRD ROOM: FAMILY ROOM (REDO)
MOTHERS: You look fantastic. Everything you ever look like, fantastic. You are a star. An apple. A bon mot. You are right, you have always been right and never wrong.
You’re wrong. We are sometimes wrong. It’s okay to be sometimes wrong.
Let’s try it again, from the top.
What did we just act out?
What did it feel like to be our mothers?
Why do you say that?
How are we healed?
From the writer
:: Account ::
I’ve written a few stories where father figures figure fatherly. I mean prominently. With “Storm Room,” I wanted to balance it out, like Alison Bechdel—but this isn’t memoir. I was interested in literalizing a Freudian stage, which turned into a perverted form of faux-participatory theatre, an opportunity to explore the transformative power of reenactment. At the 2013 &NOW festival in Boulder, I attended a panel on mother figures, which Christine Wertheim introduced by discussing mother-daughter plots and the relative absence of maternal perspectives. Here, the child’s perspective governs. But these roles are both binary and fluid. Even as we are all hurt, not-enough children, we are all mothers, too (mother as both a feminine and universal/gender-neutral term), enlisted—sometimes involuntarily, like these unwitting participants—in the care, validation, and education of others (and ourselves).
Megan Milks is the author of Kill Marguerite and Other Stories (Emergency Press, 2014) and the chapbook Twins (Birds of Lace, 2012), which enlists the Sweet Valley Twins in a choose your own adventure. Her fiction has been published in three volumes of innovative writing as well as many journals. She is co-editor of the volume Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives (Routledge, 2014) and editor of The &NOW Awards 3: The Best Innovative Writing, 2011–2013. She teaches creative writing, journalism, and literature at Beloit College.