One day when I was 12 years old and setting off on my newspaper route after school my mom said will you stop at the doctor's and pick up something for me and I grimaced and said something almost rude but not all the way rude and off I went on my bicycle. In autumn where we lived the afternoon didn't slide gently or melt easily into dusk but just snarled and surrendered and suddenly everything went brown. My mom had lost interior parts one after another over the years but I knew nothing and cared nothing of which parts and why and how they had been lost. I had 60 papers to deliver and I could deliver them in exactly 70 minutes if all went well but now I would have to go easily five whole minutes out of my way all the way over by the woods by the highway and I would not get home until long after five o'clock which meant I would miss most of the one television show we were allowed to watch per day why my mom would be so thoughtless about this matter was a mystery to me. My mom never explained what parts she was missing or where they went or how painful and complicated it was to live without certain of your crucial interior parts for example not being able to eat certain foods. By the time I got to the doctor's office the world was browning so fast it was like someone was exhaling brown at a herculean rate. My mom never complained about anything even when she had to lie down for a whole day or even two sometimes and we had to be as quiet as we could possibly be which meant take your fistfight outside or else. I knocked on the door of the doctor's office and no one answered and I knocked again and no one answered and I said something unforgivably rude for which I still feel ashamed of myself even today although no one heard me in the deep brown dusk near the woods by the highway. Sometimes my mom would vanish for a few days and the stern glare of our grandmother was in charge until our dad came home from the city and we would be so happy to see him that we leapt off the porch and sprinted to the corner and burbled home with him pretending that we too wore fedora hats and cool brown overcoats. Finally an older woman in some sort of medical tunic opened the door and I explained that I was picking up something for my mom and here is her name and here is the envelope with the money and thank you and off I went on my bicycle. The quickest way home at that point was to cut through the woods by the highway. My mom could be tart and terse and curt and sharp and sometimes she bit and snapped words so that your ear stung but when she put her long calm gently brown fingers on your neck or shoulder all was well and all manner of things was well. The woods were so black and brawly with branch and scatter that I got off my bicycle and walked through the sifting darkness. When I got home I handed her the package and she said thanks and I said something not rude for once and even now all these years later I wish I would have said a thousand thousand more gentle reverent things to my mother than I ever did in the years we lived together in that house by the woods by the highway. But we hardly ever say the things we ought to say, and desperately wish to say, from under the rude burl of our masks, even now.