My mom just called from the nursing home. She survived another painful heart episode. She asked me how the people liked the Italian songs I sang in church. She has asked me this before. I have sung no Italian songs, in church or anywhere else. Then she sang a little bit over the phone. It was lovely, though her light soprano voice is now low and hoarse. I asked her to sing some more. I thought,
I couldn’t see my way clear to make it to the annual Gala. I had RSVPed under self-imposed pressure, but I wasn’t above claiming a sudden illness should anyone mention my failure to attend. I’d cleaned myself up in a more fastidious manner than usual and had stuffed myself into my aging tux, which had over the years managed to elude mothdom. I’d then gazed with revulsion in a too-large
I sat on the backstairs, on the top step near the screened kitchen door, waiting. I did a lot of waiting. For Maud Ellen to come talk, or my grandmother, Mamoo, or Daddy whenever he’d appear, or for our dogs, Wanda and Beebee. Pinning down the dogs was easy; I could pretend to be a dog if I had to. I did waiting so well I’d turned it into art. But sometimes I got buggy. Buggy made me feel like
My mother acts like the conflict between her and me is semantic, rather than due to her crappy parenting. For instance, when I try to talk to her about how when I was a kid and she was pissed at me, or simply found me irritating and noisy, she would make me sit in the garage by myself for hours (pitch dark, smelling like rancid milk), she says, “It’s ridiculous to call that ‘abuse’! I never
Mariachi in the City
A Mariachi walked in the city in the middle of the day. He had a gold trumpet at his side. His Mariachi suit and sombrero were black with gold embroidery and he wore a red bow tie. Every now and then, at red lights, he would play a little bit of the trumpet. Sometimes people would clap. Sometimes they would just stand there in awe.
The Mariachi was on his way to meet his team,
Sunday dinner in Columbia, Tennessee: fried chicken, mixed greens— turnips, mustard, and spinach, pan-fried corn, twice milked then stirred with flour and water, candied sweets, chow chow; plates of sliced tomatoes, onions, and cukes, fresh-picked that day from the garden around the side of the house. Only four or five years old, I still remember my Aunt Gladys,
After the Orgy
After the Sunday orgy, the men changed their shirts. The women changed their shoes.
Man #1 swaggered all week.
Woman #2 composed a personal ad: “Needy woman in search of helpless man. Weren’t you at the orgy on Sunday?”
Man #2 wondered whether to contact woman #2 but never got her name.
Woman #3 in her sex education class announced brightly, “For the next two weeks, we’re going
The dolls were drinking Jack Daniels and having an argument. The mother doll said she was through with the father doll and had rented a room in another dollhouse. This room was freezing cold, with torn pink curtains; but the dollhouse had witty occupants.
Who are these people anyway? said the father doll.
I don’t know their names yet.
What about your creature comforts?
Our Struggle: On the Experience of Reading Karl Ove Knaussgaard
I read Book One of Karl Ove Knausgaard epic novel My Struggle in 2014, and was instantly hooked. In subsequent years I read books two through five, and waited for the English translation of Book Six to appear. I got my copy in late 2018, and took it to Switzerland with me, where I read it over the Christmas Break and into
The day after my thirteenth birthday chunks of ice bounced off the roofs, off the cars, off the sidewalk and I watched, overjoyed with the world. When I ran past empty thorn bushes to share my joy, I saw Dad walking up to our front door, talking to himself, pointing a forefinger at our car and at the door, chuckling and for a second I thought his excitement was about the hail.
The hospital lobby was all cool air and I was sweating. Orderlies nipped by with bodies on gurneys, nurses behind, sneakers squeaking. Everyone but me knew just where to go. I took a double-wide hallway and did a half-dozen turns before I was back where I started. This time I asked at the desk. Wrong building, it turned out. Shock Trauma was across the way.
All night the shops on the 16th Street Promenade fill with neophyte promenaders. The dogs curl up on the green sleeping bags of their owners, and I can’t find a pet store. My heart aches for the dogs while I go to buy King Crab. A thousand miles from every ocean, my mind is a wash.
One guest at the dinner I know, hardly, and the other is from a town in New Jersey. I ascent to his origin,
When we first got married, someone gave us a plastic pink flamingo as a joke. We planted it in the front yard next to the barberry bushes. For a while, every time I pulled into the drive-way I’d see it and laugh: Hahaha. Or at least my lips would curl into a smile. Later, I’d pull in and not even notice.
Teddy did all the mowing, and by the end of summer he was complaining about how the flamingo
Kurt Vonnegut was reading Journey to the End of the Night when he wrote Slaughterhouse-Five. I’m on the bed, watching baseball. I think I have throat cancer. I shined a light on the back of my throat and there’s a yellow bump back there and I don’t know what it could be. All of the blood vessels look inflamed. I’m not a doctor. I work at a pharmacy but I’m a cashier.