At Grandma’s Thanksgiving, a mash-up of turkey, cranberries, second wave feminism, and Madman era misogyny collide. After a luscious dinner, you and your London chum play at Cockney rhyming slang in the library. Uncle Uncle fumbles, mumbles, tumbles, never suspecting that your friend, whose ass he pinches, is an expert kick boxer.
What did he expect? A docile blush? You show him a shot of his pained face on Snapchat. It’s captioned, “Stand back, the fourth wave is here.” He retreats to a corner, nursing his ‘Enry ‘Alls*, chugging highballs. Rules change. Change rules. You have exceeded his expectations.
* Rhyming slang for balls (rhymes with Halls.) See the entry from Wikipedia for Rhyming Slang.
Applauding a soprano note, the musician’s circle welcomed Katie. A
yellow school bus served as the troupe’s rolling home. The air burned
her lungs, but it was better than staying at ScareCity with Affluenza
three times her age.
“State of the art filters there.” She pointed to the
building edging the lot.
While the flutist gave her a brownie baked on charcoal, the viola
player found a mask. They tuned up. When Katie sang, the timbre of
her voice was untouched by the scourge of wildfire smoke. In the
morning, she left with them to see the world.
Breathe in. Bend forward. Anchor the palms of your hands to the floor. Step back. Stretch. Hips high, breathe out.
Do not imagine goat yoga. Thinking of hard hooves climbing up your legs and down your back will cause you to laugh. Sheep playing “London Bridge” under the arc of your belly will induce yawning, maybe sleep. You groan. Six o’clock is awfully early to be awake.
Pay attention. Vinyasa to your stomach.
The cat will stretch over, her raspy tongue licking your face, asking to play. Roll over. Rub her tummy. She’ll settle warm and purring. Close your eyes.
A flash of snow arcs, flying straight to heaven. It floats at eye level, then drifts to ground. The curve of your butt segues left, then right. Love catches my throat.
“That’s how you do it, girl. Like taking a corner on a bike. It’s in the leaning.”
We reach the end of the course, your dark hair flying behind you. A bobbing pink pompom perches on the cap I knitted you last Christmas. Slowing in tandem, we find glasses, pop a cork, and toast an anniversary we never imagined would happen. The frosty air warms to our strong embrace.
That summer Gene, eyes longing, looked at Billie Jo like she was a county fair roller coaster. She got dizzy thinking about that look. Sitting in a lawn chair, sipping iced tea, and reading starlet magazines, Billie Jo thrilled to stories about Hollywood. She and Gene would play opposite each other as romantic leads. She was sure they’d have fantastic careers in show business.
Come the fall chill, Gene never looked
at her that way. It was always some other way and she didn’t always
like to admit it, but she should have known things would turn out
From a young age, she worked with her father on weekends at a community garden halfway between his home and her mother’s. The relationship developed slowly, the way carrots do. The woman did well in school and married, expecting a happily ever after.
On her son’s fifth birthday, her father collapsed while frosting a superhero cake. The cake was perfect. The party was not. Winter set in, hardening the ground.
In the spring, her mother dragged her daughter to the old garden plot. “It’s yours now.” Sifting the soil, she and her children planted seeds for future remembering.
Theodore grew up in a family that was asset rich, but empathy poor. He dreamed of escape. Filling panniers with snacks and casual clothes, he biked inland, towards Fresno, meaning to sample cappuccino in every coffeehouse in every California town of fewer than 500 people.
Ted, his road name, was shocked that people in some places hadn’t tasted espresso. In one cafe, they percolated coffee on a stovetop using Folgers regular grind from the can. A dark brown, it smelled burnt. The waitress said, “Folks here like this brand.” It broke his heart. He married her. Then, she changed his life.