It was these moments between moments. Those times when the laughter stopped; between card games; when the next song on the record player hadn’t started – just that soft crackling pause. It was in those times when he didn’t see his mother just as his mother. He saw her, bridged there between inhale and exhale, as Leta, a woman beyond the woman he knew. A woman well beyond mother – fully realized, formed, with all the attendant contradictions, hopes, joys, failures. A remarkable woman – a remarkable woman. For isn’t everyone remarkable, he questioned, the smell of delivery pizza lingering everywhere, even in their tragic mediocrity? No one would write Leta’s biography. There were no Hollywood producers at their door hoping to make a biopic of Leta’s life starring some elder English woman who had won Golden Globes decades previous. And yet, here she was, alit with some beauty that only she could possess. Thirty-three years working at the bakery outlet. A kidney transplant. She had married twice, both for love. Both of those lovers were now sealed in tombs – one in Duluth and the other, Columbus. She still had dreams – however dimmed, they were still dreams – to travel to Italy and go to the village where her parents met. She had a heart – a bright shining thing – and whatever issues he had had with her growing up to be a man under her roof, the smell of pizza and cigarette smoke everywhere, she was as beautiful, he thought, as any of those Hollywood types. They should be so lucky. The record player started up the next song – a bossa nova number that made her smile.
Story by Jonathan Shipley
It was in those other moments. Those soft quiet ones. Those brief moments when there was a lull in the party, or the record player was between songs, or the laughs that were had, joking over a game of cards, was paused. It was then that he saw his mother as something more than his mother. He saw her as Lena. Lena, the woman who worked for 23 years as a secretary at the insurance company. Lena, the woman who loved bossa nova music so much that the record player in the living room was never really turned off. Lena, the woman who had dreams of visiting Italy one day. Just a woman to him, and also, everything a woman should be. He thought Lena was everything a woman should be and it broke him up, hard sometimes, in that space between really living and living because he saw that it was hard for her, living without his dad. No amount of Brazilian music would bring him back. No amount of gentle ribbing over her cheating during cards would bring him back. Nothing would bring him back. Photos in albums. His sport coats still hanging in the closet. The car under the tarpaulin in the backyard was going to stay under tarpaulin. He didn’t cry for her. He was told not to ever cry. His mom and dad both taught him that. She’d stand up and get a pack of cigarettes, saying something she knew her dead husband would find funny, hoping that her son might, too. He saw her as everything a woman should be. He wished it was enough for her. All the ashtrays in the house were still filled with his dark flame.
Story by Jonathan Shipley
I am always running around after. After kids, after dogs, after that man. I am surrounded by broken toys and rumpled piles of clothes, diapers soaking in the toilet and dishes soaking in the sink. From dinner leftovers strewn across the table to tufts of canine hair skittering across the floor, I run from one mess to the next, TV blaring in the background.
I am always tired. Tired of the omnipresent television that substitutes for a conversation; tired of drama walking in the door every night, sucking all the air from the room. I turn inside me so I can breathe. I spend so much time inside, I can’t find my way back out.
When I was young I ran. I took it for granted that I could run. Wasn’t even something I thought about thanking the Lord for, the fact I could keep moving, one foot in front of the other, faster, faster. I kept moving so I didn’t have to think.
Got plenty of time to think now. No more running. Joe and his wife invited me for Christmas. This is the last place I want to be right now, but these feet won’t take me where I want to go anymore. Finally no one to chase after, no one to run from. Finally all the time in the world for me, and now? Now these feet have let me down.
I’m waiting for Joe to take me home. Trying to show my daughter-in-law I appreciate them having me over. Trying to put that smile on my face. But I am always tired.
Story by Nani413