All Romantics Meet the Same Fate

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Your mother is annoyed. She barks at the receptionist, “It’s all her fault I’m late.” Four minutes. But it was Mom who lost the address.

“If you want me, I’ll be in the car.”

Windows down in the mad heat, waiting forever for an apology that never comes. Long enough to calm down.

She gets in, ragging, “You’re too sensitive.” Like that’s a criminal offense.

Her anger never stops. It circulates, accrues interest. She banks outrage. The only solution is to withdraw.

You will say, “I’m gone.” She will cry. You will come back. You just don’t know when.

As Told by the Cheshire Cat

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Red Queen to Red Queen, “I’m finished.”

Mom calls me in tears. “She makes me move, then leaves in the middle of packing.”

Mom doesn’t know what to do. She never expected my sister to abandon her.

I say that RQ is unpredictable. That she wants convenient proximity, not emotional closeness, that it’s always been this way.

Mom’s flash bang hysterics burst into a gotcha grin. I see it through the wires. She’s pulled me into family hell.

Cheshire Catlike, I disappear to draw maps of Crazy Crisis Wonderland, hoping to find a way out. But, there is no exit.

She’s Moving Though She’s Ninety Years Old.

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The walls are thin. After my mom and I argue, I meet her neighbor in the rec room and it seems she’s heard everything. What I said about wishing my mother wouldn’t move because her memory is bad. Because it takes time to make friends. Because she’s not old furniture for my sister to rearrange when it suits her.

Mom depends on my sister. I live in another state.

The neighbor said, “My daughter bought across town. She wanted me to find a place close by, but I stayed put. People are nice here. I depend more on myself, now.”

Witch Question Was That?

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The shelter director took in the kitchen situation. “Will lunch be ready on time?”

The problem was Elspath. She stood beside a metal bowel swimming with chicken livers. With a spatula, Elspath turned onions in butter for a pâtè. Next to the skillet, a saucepan boiled.

The woman at the front of the line, her wrinkled face rivaling Elspath’s for age not wisdom, always had the same question. “When will my daughter visit?” She offered up a liver.

Slimey, it roiled in broth. Elspath said, “Remember, she called.”

The woman’s face brightened. “Yes.”

Elspath said. “She’ll be here for lunch.”

The People Could Fly

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When Jesse said his people could fly, we spent the afternoon leaping from boulders, arms spread, rolling into the water instead of digging crawdads for supper. Though he fled to D.C. after the Klan burned Wilmington in 1898, we kept in touch.

In 1965, both ninety-five years old, we rode to Montgomery to hear Dr. King speak. Afterwards, Jesse said, “The moral arc of the universe must be a rainbow. Takes faith to find the end of it.”

“Helps to fly, doesn’t it.”

He nodded, picked up his two-year old great-granddaughter, who spread her arms, laughing and flapping. “This one’s in training.”

California Winter

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It rained. And then froze. The rain a teaser. Maybe no drought this year. Maybe there’s snow piled into the mountains. Not that we’ll know. Since the electricity stopped working, we haven’t heard from anyone more than a buggy’s ride away.

Try explaining electricity to a five-year old. It always ends up with magic. The same way that putting seeds in the ground and getting peas seems like a miracle. We used to show our daughter how peas grow. How they need water. Used a plastic cup and a paper towel. None of those left. Good thing there’s still miracles.

Baby Gift

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Trying to cheer me up, a friend said, “Imagine a start-up selling a flying car. A guy named Tad, with genius hair and cargo shorts, runs things. Like Icharus, he falls to earth. Landing in an old growth forest close to the coast, he’s looking for a mechanic when Chloe comes along on a breath of pine and salt water.

“They marry. They’re happy, too, despite the devil on Tad’s shoulder teasing that he could have had the world. Tad pays that devil no mind. A new dad, now he’s flying by the seat of his pants.”

Me too.

Not An Emergency

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There was a fight about money after my father’s funeral, though money played no part. The details don’t matter. Proximity: same car, same hotel, same any building and we erupt. It would have been a ruckus except our husbands intervened. My sister pushed a finger at my chest. Ghosts burned through me. We could have been scrambling over sharp-edged furniture into the emergency room.

The argument was predictable, something to schedule for a convenient time. A time free of hot flashes and cold stares. After forty years of not settling things, the fracas was expected, even anticipated. Not an emergency.

Adulting

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Since the virus started, Lolly made her own decisions. Even hard ones, like, could she go across the street for a physically distant chat with her best friend, whom she’d known since first grade. Tempting fate, maybe.

Her parents worked at the hospital. They self quarantined. She missed seeing them and arguing about the silly things that had seemed important three months ago.

She said, “I love you.” Made omelets and sausage plated with sprigs of parsley which everyone ate alone. So grown up. So post high school. So very responsible and thinking about others more often now. Real adulting.

Ornery

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My ninety-year-old mother is getting stir crazy. She says to me:

  • I’m too old to be alive.

I say:

  • You’re too ornery for heaven and the devil knows you’d raise hell.

She laughs. She roars. She can’t stop.

  • My mother said the good die young, the rest are too ornery.

That’s my grandmother, who was herself pretty ornery and died at a ripe old eighty-seven. Ornerier than Mom.

Ornery, it’s a good word. A word for times like this when the world is upside down. Time to get stubborn. Find some beans, seeds and flour. Happy for a quinoa stash.