SUNDAY MAIL | A Mother’s Inquiry

black liquidA few months ago I wrote a short essay about how one day black liquid volcanoed out of my bathroom sink. The maitence guy stopped the explosion of black liquid within ten minutes and helped to clean up the mess. Just a blip of an experience in my life. Though I did write a short essay about it and, like I always do with my writing, emailed it to my mother. The following is a small selection of the essay. After that is, well, the email my mother sent me in return.


            With a tilt of our heads we wordlessly inquire “you hear that?” I rise from my chair, walk around my desk and traverse the living room to stand in the doorway of the bathroom. Leaning against the wood, arms crossing over chest, I assess the situation.

            There. There is a volcano of black water geyser-ing up, overflowing from the sink, the counter now submerged, the white-tiled floor quickly drowning. Bathroom inundated by the unknown.

            “That’s not good.” I say. More staring. Husband joins me in the doorway.

            “Nope,” he says. “Not good.”

            Thought: if I were standing in this doorway with my girlfriend from five years ago, she would be shrieking  and crying by now. The presence of an unexpected thing making her see how shehas no control over anything. Anything. This fact would always freaked her out. A fact that made me want our we to no longer be.

            Neither husband nor I are freaking out.

            A prayer to a higher power enters my mind. Thank you for giving me the strength to leave her, then marry him.

            A married couple stands calmly in the bathroom doorway, the thick, black water that is becoming goop-like continues to dive from the counter, flood the floor and now it heads towards the white hallway carpet, the border of the doorway soon to be forged, drenched. Toes about to be touched.

            “Should I turn off the water pipes?” I ask.

            “Maybe,” he says, his response reflecting how unsure we are as to why our sink is purging black liquid, unsure of what it is we should do.

            The floor continues to fill.


moms email about plumbing


Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago, and is currently enrolled in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program. She has been published in The Rumpus, Atticus Review, and The Nervous Breakdown among many others. She has won many awards, most recently the Owl of Minerva Award 2014 from the women’s literary journal Minerva Rising. Clammer is the Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as a columnist and workshop instructor for the journal. Her first collection of essays, There is Nothing Else to See Here, is forthcoming from The Lit Pub, Fall 2014. You can read more of her writing at:


Chelsey Clammer
Chelsey Clammer is the author of the award-winning essay collection, Circadian (Red Hen Press, 2017) and BodyHome (Hopewell Publications, 2015). Her work has appeared in Salon, The Rumpus, Hobart, Brevity, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Normal School and Black Warrior Review. She teaches online writing classes with WOW! Women On Writing and is a freelance editor. Her next collection of essays, Human Heartbeat Detected, is forthcoming (Fall 2022) from Red Hen Press.

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