Sunday Stories: “Maybum”


by Mary B. Sellers

The frost isn’t as pretty as I expected it to be. Out here with the dogs. 6:29 am. 

Parents have gone because mom’s getting another electroconvulsive treatment and for the first time in a long time I’m glad she’s going. It usually bothers me to think about all her neurons being lit up like little glow in the dark worms and her mouth clamped shut so she won’t swallow her tongue. I asked her once how the doctor knows she’s seizing; she told me that he watches for when her foot “jumps”. She couldn’t remember whether it was her right or her left. But her dad is dying; an event that would unravel even the most raveled of us. I haven’t had that happen yet, but I got a taste of what it would potentially feel like back in 2014. My own dad. Cancers. One so bad the medical people in charge of naming medical things felt compelled to place a modifier before it: malignant

6:34 am. I’m smoking a cigarette I’ve promised them I’ve quit six months before. I’ve become such an easy liar these days. When did that happen? Or better question: when did that start? I used to be so scared of lying that I went around for years as a kid answering questions with “maybum”. It was my 5 year old terminology for “maybe” and “um” — but this is just a guess, my 30 year old’s guess, which probably means I’m dead wrong about it all. Maybe I just liked the word maybe. Maybe I had boundaries back then I wasn’t aware of having and not promising myself to any one condition —no yeses and no no’s—was how I went about finding my freedom. Or maybe this is me simply fabricating a memory so that it sounds pretty like fiction. 

There’s nothing I enjoy more than scourging up memories and performing detailed surgery on them like a kid playing Operation, tight with anticipation, doing your damndest to elude that awful strangled buzzing that rang out if you got your pinchers too close to the metal edge and the plastic white wishbone slipped away and further under the open space in the plastic cadaver. I like performing surgeries on them until they’re shocked into something new and nubile. Lies are like my sentences. I reconstruct and interrupt and take apart and diagram and resurrect and micromanage and obsess over them, as if possessed. 

Maybum it’s a mother hen syndrome to things that can’t love back. Maybum I love them for that reason, for only existing as extensions of myself. 

So I’m a liar. A good one, too. It’s 6:40 am now and I’ve let the dogs back inside. Too cold. I’ve taken two ambiens and my fingers are also cold and that’s all I’ve come up with so far. 


Maybum in some alternate reality there’s a me who never started fibbing or smoking cigarettes, who never moved back home at 30 and acts 16. 

When lying, I rely on this unnatural innocence I’ve always collected about myself like a superheroine with a cape of sugar crystals. Icy in that forgivably shy kind of way; fragile, perhaps, too transparent to practice dishonesty. It looks like I’m showing you everything, maybe even more than you’d asked for, which does the trick of building an artificial intimacy—just me working my particular brand of manipulative magic. The easy kind, sure, for to be a young white woman with round child eyes and a sugar crystal cape—so eagerly frangible—how could I possibly be something so low-caliber-crafty as a casual liar? 


Mary B. Sellers received her MFA in fiction from Louisiana State University, where she served as editorial assistant for The Southern Review. Her writing appears in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Psychopomp, Flash Fiction Magazine, Literary Orphans, Third Point Press, and others. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi, and is at work on a novel.

Photo: Andres Simon/Unsplash

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