The Single Mother’s Guide to Surviving a Sinkhole

What kills me is that, at the moment of impact, when the floor buckles and the bed plummets, I’m dreaming of laundry. Laundry! There I am, wrestling a preposterously large laundry basket up the stairs, and fwooooooop! I plummet into the crusty layers of the earth. 

“This is a terrible dream,” I say.

I close my eyes.

Crap! I open my eyes again. My bedroom is still above me. Straining to the left, I see my dresser, the fraying edge of my rug, and the strap from yesterday’s bra.

I pull my blanket over me and inhale the trapped the ripe and sweaty stench which is okay because it’s mine and because it mostly smells like the ridiculously expensive detergent I buy because of Jazz’s allergies.

Jazz is eight, my youngest, which is why she gets pudding in her lunch. The older two only got applesauce, and boy are they bitter. Jazz is a royal pain but my favorite because her sisters, Morgan and Roxy, are monsters. My maternal love for them does not, in any way, excuse their current states of monstrosity.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it: Morgan and Roxy are teenagers.

Am I dead? I reach out with my index finger to touch the dirt wall. It’s damp. Is this a panic dream about death? 


Jazz! Jazz has come to save me, to wake me from this ridiculous dream.

Unfortunately, she sounds far-away.


“Jazz!” I yell. I hear her words get lost in the bedroom.

“MOMMY?” The voice comes closer.

I sit up, cup my hands around my mouth. “JAZZ,” I holler.

The bedroom door opens. “MOMMY! Where are–”

I see her small foot. “Jazz,” I yell. “Don’t freak out. And don’t come any closer!”

No answer.

“Jazz. Listen. Stay where you are.”

“Why?” Jazz asks. She’s right above me, lying on her stomach, peering down. “What happened, Mommy? Why are you down there?”

“Something happened to the floor,” I call up. “You probably shouldn’t be in my room. It might not be safe, monkey.”

Jazz belly slides backwards an inch.

“What’s going to happen, Mommy?”

Good question. Right now, I can think of two outcomes:

  1. If I’m not actually dead, my death is imminent, and Jazz and her sisters go live with their dad, his wife, and their toddlers in their two-bedroom condo, which means seven people will be miserable.
  2. I get out of here and tomorrow I will go to a meeting.

“Where are your sisters?”

“Present.” Roxy leans over the hole and grins.

“Jesus. How long have you been there?”

“Long enough.”

I squeeze my blanket. Roxy might be the one to kill me. She’s the smartest of the three, but the jury is out if she’ll use her brain for good or evil. I’ll feel better once she gets out of high school, but she’s still got another two years.

“Interesting that you’re in a sinkhole,” Roxy says matter of factly. “We’re not geographically zoned for sinkholes. They’re much more common in warmer states. Places like Florida and Alabama. Not here.”

Sinkhole, I think. I’m in a sinkhole. This isn’t a dream. I have been sunk into a hole. I pull my blanket back over my face, close my eyes. Except for the gentle rushing of water in the dirt next to me, it’s quiet, almost peaceful.


“She’s not dead,” Roxy says.

“How do you know?” Jazz cries.

“She was just talking, you pridurok. I can see her breathing. Look.”

I lift the blanket off my head and look up. Jazz is staring at me with binoculars.

“What time is it?” I ask.

“Time is a construct,” Roxy says.

You see what I mean, right?

“Seven dot dot eighteen,” Jazz says.

“Shit. You need to go to school. Where’s Morgan?”

“I’ll get her,” Jazz says.

“Roxy,” I yell. “How is my room? The rest of the house? Are you guys safe?”

I strain to watch Roxy survey the area.

“Other than the sinkhole it seems perfectly fine,” she calls down in too short a time.

“I need you to step it up today, okay?”

“Step up. Ha! Not sink down. Good one, Mom. Did you know that the world’s largest sandstone sinkhole is called Sima Humboldt?”

I close my eyes and try not to think about my throbbing bladder.

“Sima Humboldt, in Venezuela, is so deep it has a forest at the floor. Imagine that. A forest!”

“Please, Roxy.”

“What would you like me to do? Call Mr. Matthews?”

Since the birth of her father’s twins, Roxy has called her father Mr. Matthews. It drives him crazy, but, as you can see, there’s no stopping her.


“What about the newspaper? This could be a big story in our neck of the woods.”

“Don’t think about calling the paper.”

“Holy shit,” I hear Morgan say. “That’s, like, a really big hole.”

I know this is mean, but my beautiful first born is an idiot. A beautiful idiot with legs for days, green eyes, and a river of hair down her back. Honestly, with the way things usually work when you’re white and pretty in this country, I think she’ll do okay, but God knows she’s not getting me out of this mess.

“Morgan!” I holler.





“Yes, Mother?”

“Roxy, feed Jazz.”

“She doesn’t eat. She’s allergic to all things food.”

“She’ll eat pudding,” I call. “Get one of her puddings and walk her to the Larsons. Tell them she needs a ride.”

“Shall I tell Cecile Larson you’re in a hole?” Roxy asks.


I live where the houses are big, the cars are all Volvos, and the lawns are green, green, green. Everyone here complains about their cleaning ladies, but no one would dare live without one.If Cecile knows where I am, she’ll be up my ass because of what this sinkhole will do to our collective property values.

“So do I tell Cecile Larson you’re in a void? A chasm? A gulch? A gulf? An abyss?”


“I don’t want to go to school,” Jazz yells down. “I hate school.”

“You have to,” I yell up. “Please. Do it for Mommy, Jazzy.”

I watch my youngest—our beloved maybe-she’ll-stop-the-divorce baby—and process that I’m asking her to do something she doesn’t want to do! For me! Will she? Does my allergic, pathologically whiney baby realize I’m powerless?

“Please, Jazz. Pretty please.”

“Can I go in pajamas?”

“Yes,” I shriek. “Hurry, Jazzy—hurry!”

“Fine,” Jazz says slowly. I watch her fuzzy pink-slippered feet shuffle toward the door.

“Morgan!” I yell after they’ve left.

No answer.

I throw my covers off, stand on the bed, cup my arms around my mouth. “MORGAN!”

Still no answer. I tip my head to the left and then the right, but I don’t see her. Fuck it. I squat on the side of the bed and pull down my underwear.

“Mom! What are you doing?” Morgan sounds horrified.

“Relieving my bladder. Wait till you’re forty-seven and push three angry babies out of your vagina.”

“9-1-1. I’m going to call, ok?”

The police. Of course! My tax dollars at work. One quick call to the local precinct and I’ll be out of this hole faster than you can say sink. Except I went to high school with nearly the entire police force and, thus, know first-hand that they are all inane douchebags. The worst of them being the captain himself: Captain Christopher Marsbach, Douchebag Extraordinaire! I gave Christopher blowjob after blowjob one summer and later found out he rated me a six out of ten on the senior boys’ secret BJ chart! Damn it if Christopher Marsbach is getting me out of my hole. Six out of ten, my ass.

“Don’t call the police!” I yell.

“Why not?”

“Because. Please go to school,” I say.

“But how can we leave you, Mother darling?”

I stand up. “You can drive the BMW,” I announce.

“To school?” Roxy sounds shocked.

“To school, and only to school on one condition: Get me supplies first, girls. I need things!”

While the girls gather my provisions, I take off my pee-soaked underwear.

“Think fast, Mama bear!” A granola bar and two of Jazz’s puddings graze my legs, followed by two rolls of toilet paper and a plastic water bottle with the name of a popular local sports team.

“Would it have killed you to bring me a fruit?”


They are gone for seven seconds when I realize: my phone. Fuck. How could Roxy not give me my phone? Roxy is a genius. Time passes. I wonder when will Jazz stop saying dot dot? More time passes.

With a thud, I realize that it’s dermatology Thursday! Today! At 2:00 p.m., whenever that is. And it’s not just a dermatology appointment. It’s the dermatology appointment. Jazz must get there! Dr. Chan is the most sought-after pediatric dermatologist this side of the sinkhole. We’ve been waiting for months. Long-suffering, rashy Jazz cannot miss this.

I stand on the bed and look up into my bedroom. There are mothers who lift six thousand pound trucks to save their children. I’ve clicked on the links to read about these moms. There’s nothing special about them; they’re just women making lunches between cycles of laundry. Those moms have nothing on me. I got three children to school from the bottom of a sinkhole. Even if it’s not Sima Humboldt. So, I dig my fingers deep into the dirt and, pushing on the balls of my feet, I use everything I have and start climbing.

Written by Emma Wunsch – Lebanon, New Hampshire – USA

Feature Photo by Fotografierende

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Pat Bonner Milone says:

    So Funny! … I was sucked right in!!! LOVE this!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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