A mother and son were sitting in a delicatessen bagel shop. The mother drank coffee, and the son, who was about 12 or 13, sipped on a Sprite. Hot morning sunlight glazed the shop windows. The mother had an egg sandwich with sausage and the boy ate a doughnut, and the mother ate a doughnut too. The mother was overweight but not quite obese, and the son, too, was overweight, but also not obese except maybe by a classification of obesity for children. While they weren’t what you would call ‘happy’, they weren’t particularly sad either. They did not seem emotional or passionate and high and low moods rarely made up their respective temperaments.

“So what do we do now?” the son asked his mother.

His mother was more absorbed in her doughnut than short range plans.

“We wait a few hours and then drive over to our new place,” she said.

“But I don’t wanna move there. It stinks. The apartment is nowhere near as big as our house was.”

His mother stared at him, making an effort to be patient.

“Just because something is smaller, it doesn’t always mean that it’s worse.”

“Why can’t we go to the park?”


“But why?”

“Because we can’t, that’s why.”

She washed down the squeezed stub of her doughnut with some burnt weak coffee and stared out the window. On the sidewalk a smartly dressed, slender and shapely woman in her late 20s passed by the delicatessen. She wore long graceful high heels that made a clicking rhythm against the cement. It was a hot day in mid-July and yet the young woman, in her makeup, tight skirt and stockings appeared remarkably cool, as if her body held an internal air conditioner . . . the air conditioner in the delicatessen didn’t work very well, and the mother felt runnels of perspiration on the underside of her arms just below her armpits. How could that girl not be sweating?

“I want to go to Game World,” the overweight boy whined.

“I said no.”

“But why?”

“Because we need to get some things at Walmarts before driving to our new place.”

The overweight boy who was not quite obese sighed and sulked.

“I don’t wanna go. Are you listening to me?”

Her sweat increased, freshets dampening her neglected body.

“Oh, you will go or I’ll beat your ass.”

“They’ll call me a pig at the new school. I’ll be teased and bullied.”

“You’re bigger than most of them and you won’t be alone. You’re not that fat. Try out for football. You’d make a good lineman.”

“I’m not going.”

“We’ll be living closer to Aunt Clara and Bobby. About a mile away.”

“I hate Aunt Clara and Bobby!”

Using her pinky finger the mother flattened the few remaining doughnut crumbs and lifted them to her mouth, a tongue the color of clay flicking.

“That’s too bad,” she said to her borderline obese son, “because you’ll be seeing a lot more of them. Probably a couple times a week.”

“I’m not going!”

“Stop arguing about it, please. This conversation is over.”

The boy excused himself to use the restroom, and with a precious minute or so to herself the mother, the woman, felt that she’d been conned or tricked in some vague but universal way having to do with her sex. She might have once been that slender creature who’d passed by earlier, but in truth she’d never been that pretty, more like a younger prettier version of her present self, believing back then she could get anything she wanted, including a husband and a fairly decent life.


Another Sketch from “The House of Tomorrow”

It was only after my mother died that I thought more about having a handicapped parent and being raised by a handicapped parent. My mother hadn’t been severely handicapped but enough that I had noticed a difference with other kids’ parents. For instance, when walking with her you needed to slow down and pace yourself to her gait, or stand on a chair to reach something in the cabinet or bend down to retrieve a fallen object if it had rolled into a hard-to-reach spot. You were enjoined to descend the wooden steps to the basement where a few laundry items may have been left, more often to bring back the pack of cigarettes she’d forgotten if there wasn’t a new pack in the house to open. And if at home, be ready to lift her off the floor from the occasional stumble and fall. There was the aforementioned positioning of the dead limb in the driver’s seat of the family car, and at times I would have to move and position the limb for her, or when in the house correctly place the limb on the couch or a hassock when it appeared in danger of sliding off. I slipped socks and shoes on and off her feet, tugging canvas across the chafed skin of her heel, yanking worsted side to side, up or down, and struggling to get it over the protruding fibula of her ankle.

Two sketches from the beginning of a short story

Fred Mole’s Saturdays began early, around 5:00 or 5:30, so he could get to his shop or stall at the flea market which opened at 7:00. Fred liked to give himself enough time to have two cups of coffee and two cigarettes before leaving the house. Some weeks he would stop to pick up merchandise from one of his wholesalers. His mother was asleep, and as he was leaving Fred would always step into the shadowed musty bedroom and kiss her on the forehead to say goodbye. Snoring in a thick gin-induced slumber, his mother rarely noticed the kiss, and if she felt the pressure of his lips at all it was filtered through her subconscious until her son’s lips became those of an old lover, or several lovers, all dead now. His mother’s hair sprouted from the crown and sides of her head like tufts of cotton. She’d given birth to him at the age of 30, almost as an afterthought, an advanced age for that time and their class. Fred was 45. His mother’s cheeks were plump but with a complexion like skim milk, even bluish in those places where the veins struggled. Her skin was a kind of living elastic marble.

It was going to be a blistering hot day.

Shannon opened her stall early and arranged the studded jeans and hippie blouses on the rack, the jeans with vents running the length of the seam, a bit suggestive by exposing lozenges of skin, light or dark, maybe a bit slutty or hip depending on your point of view. Shannon was wearing a pair herself and did not feel self-conscious when considering she might be too old (39) for this style of jeans. She was the mother of a 21-year-old soldier stationed in Kuwait. She was thin and proud of her long legs, and if her thighs had been of ample thickness and girth she might have chosen instead to wear a Mumu. Knowing how hot it could get in the stalls she had on a sleeveless white blouse, tightly pleated in front with rainbow colored embroidery in southwest Indian tribal motifs. The blouse was cut a few inches above her tanned navel, crimped with a silver piercing like a small unshelled escargot on a skewer. Shannon used her Bic disposable lighter to light a stick of incense and place it alongside a row of scented massage oils. Her DVD player sat behind the register alongside a batik hanging. Music played low as she sipped a large Dunkin Donuts coffee in anticipation of her first sale, the shimmering harmonies laving over her as she awakened to the morning and possibility.

Guinnevere had golden hair
       Like yours, mi’lady, like yours . . .