My Golem daughter packs for college. She packs her sweater sets, her sensible black boots, her button-down shirts. She never wears crop-tops or low necklines. She packs her jeans. She does not write on her jeans with a ballpoint pen, drawing hearts and lines from her favorite songs, the lyrics she knows make me blush. She does not worry holes in the fabric with her fingers. Her bed is always made military-tight, fairy lights strung over it in a bell curve, photos clipped on the wires spaced exactly three inches apart. My Golem daughter never sits in boys’ cars in front of our house, windows dripping with tears.

She folds her clothes in her suitcases as if she were the one who worked at Brandy Melville. She packs her two sets of extra-long sheets. She packs the new shower caddy she’ll bring to the dorm showers to haul her Pantene conditioner for dry hair, her Jergens Extra-Dry Healing lotion, the hair gel she uses so her bangs will lie just so. She packs she packs she packs.

My Golem daughter is always focused.

Her eyes are now on her suitcase, her bangs covering the word I wrote on her forehead, אמת, truth. The truth is: I can destroy her, erase the letter aleph, א, to change the word truth to death, מת. The truth is: for my Golem daughter, I hold her life in my hands. How easy it would be. I watch from the doorway to her room, examine the soft pad of my thumb: I can rub aleph off with a light touch and she will turn back to what she’s made of. I thrill at that power, I wonder if. I’ve had only two years with her.

I bring her a set of towels, because she will need those too. Thanks Mom, she says, and her voice sounds like running water, like dirt and magic and crawling things. I shiver; I love the way she calls me Mom. Are you sure you want to go away? I ask. She knows that she’s the first Golem to go to college. An Ivy League, no less. It will not be easy: will my daughter’s roommate notice the truth inscribed on her forehead, will she seek to brush the letters away, will there be an aura of uncanniness that repels her? Or will they stay up all night whispering in the dark under her Ikea duvet, talking of classes and dreams and boys? Oh, Mom, she says, and she shakes her head, high ponytail swinging.

That night they found her, I knelt on the banks of the creek. The water ran winter-fast and the wet earth smelled of decay. I howled and even the coyotes were afraid. I formed my Golem daughter with tears. I formed her with clay and algae and foam. Mud crusted under my nails. The police found no DNA under hers. I lumbered from the creek bed and my Golem daughter followed me, naked and solid. Her flesh like my flesh, transformed from mud. In the bedroom, I pointed to her canopied bed, to her desk. This is your room. I slipped a dress over her head, zipped the back, tied the belt. Her hands up as if she were still a toddler. You are my daughter.

My Golem daughter does not bleed and she cannot break. She tells me, I will always love you. I grip her tight with hands that formed her from fistfuls of mud and magic. Hands that made her stay.

***

Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Craft, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her stories have been chosen for the Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction anthologies, Wigleaf Top 50, and the Longform fiction pick of the week. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.