I Never Made Lunch For Mother.

A story

I.

It is early spring. Sunbeams and a soft breeze drift through the open window and settle on my quilt. Last night’s cup of chamomile tea is half-empty and ice cold.

The tea is not the only thing in the room that’s cold.

I have just awakened. I lie in bed in the corner of my bedroom, with the faded flower-print curtains and my faded flower-print quilt, which I pull up to my chest and fold over my belly. Things don’t look quite as shabby when you treat them with loving care. That’s what Mother always said, anyway.

I reach over and pick up my hand-mirror off the nightstand. Silver strands are making headway—I am long overdue to visit my hairdresser. My cheeks seem to droop—I push back one side my face and compare it to the other. I push it up as high as I can, and sigh and let it fall. Automatically, I apply some lotion. After a few more moments of reflection, I lay the mirror aside and push back the covers. Standing up, I don’t recall this sort of stiffness even when I was ill.

I’ve improved greatly in rousing myself at a decent hour without any assistance. For years, Mother made sure I got out of bed while my coffee and cream—heavy cream—were still hot.

I shuffle out to the kitchen and turn on the automatic coffeemaker. Mother always used a percolator, but I’ve never quite gotten the hang of it. I try to crack some eggs but it’s no use—I always get pieces of shell in it. I dump it out. Sniffing the cream, I am not certain if it’s still any good.

The black-and-white striped awning outside the window blocks most of the early sunlight, though a few pale rays dance quietly at the empty place at the kitchen table where she used to sit across from me every morning.

For nearly fifteen years I had lain ill; yet I did not waste away, outwardly at least. Lack of intercourse with the outside world preserved me from the many troubles which take a toll on a woman’s looks. I was well-fed and taken care of. Truly, I have nothing to complain of, except…

I am thinking of James this morning.

II.

It was a fine spring when I was well enough to emerge from my sickroom. Naturally, I made for the place any invalid romantic would: the park. One cannot but feel youthful in a park during the spring.

During my frequent breaks in the shade on wrought-iron benches, I observed the passers-by—grandmothers pushing baby carriages, young men and women holding hands and bumping into one another, old men smoking cigars, middle-aged women gossiping in cardigan sweaters.

A young man walked slowly across the path from me next to the fence, head down. Patches of light dropped through the tree leaves onto his hair, transforming it from black to chestnut. I played with my umbrella’s handle, which was carved into the shape of a duck’s head. I always brought a lightweight umbrella with me, even in sunny weather.

When he returned, on my side of the path, he stopped in front of me and asked, “Is it gonna rain today?”

“Oh,” I said, glancing down at my umbrella with a small laugh, “You never know.”

He sat down next to me. “Man, it’s too bad it’s not gonna rain,” he said, looking up at the sky.” At least that would keep me inside studying.”

“Studying?”

“I’ve got finals starting tomorrow and I haven’t done anything yet.”

“That’s not good!” I shook the duck at him. “You’ve got to be a good boy and study!”

“I am—” he grabbed the duck and pulled the umbrella out of my hand “—a very good boy.”

We chatted a bit about his studies, and I mentioned I had taken some courses at his college.

“When you are you graduating?” he asked.

“Uh, maybe next year,” I said, picking at my cuticles. “I’ve been bad, ha ha. I need to catch up on some credits.”

He poked me in the side with my umbrella. “What are you, a party girl?”

“Like the song goes, girls just wanna have fun.”

“What song?”

“Never mind… So where do you live?”

He spun the umbrella around. “I live in an apartment with a couple of guys. I’ve got this one who’s wasted all the time. Like, last night he comes in, barfs, and then slips in it and falls.”

“Ugh! Gag me with a spoon.”

“Huh?”

“Oh, I mean, that’s really gross.”

He laughed and tried to tickle me in the ribs. “You have such a weird way of talking!”

“Yes, I’m very weird, what can I say…” I grabbed my umbrella back and stabbed his thigh with the duck’s beak.

He gave me a long look. “You wanna bounce and go somewhere else?”

I never could say no to a pair of hazel eyes. “Sure. Where’d you have in mind?”

“We could go to my place, but my roommates are home, dunno if you’re cool with that.”

I was, in fact, not cool with that, given his earlier description of his fellow juveniles. However, it was Mother’s bridge group day and she was guaranteed to be out until it was time to come home and make dinner for us.

I stood up and smoothed down the back of my skirt. “Actually, why don’t you come to my place for coffee?” I figured that we’d be gone by the time Mother got home. Hand in hand, we departed.

III.

I reheated what remained of the morning’s coffee while he perused my father’s sports memorabilia. He was impressed. I didn’t inform him that my father found most of them in pawn shops.

He came up behind me with a teddy bear in a sports jersey and waved it in front of my face. I fell back against him laughing. I pushed him out of the way with my hip and poured the coffee. After I placed the two faded teacups full of coffee and cream on the table, I sat down and crossed my legs. 

“Hey, this is pretty cool,” he said as he walked around the room and looked at the pennants and collectibles.

I tried to laugh this off, but I wanted nothing more than for him to sit down and forget about them.

The rattling of keys sounded at the front door and before I could set my cup down, Mother was standing in the hallway outside the kitchen.

“Hi there! Looks like we’ve got some company.”

I wiped my bangs back from my face. “Mother, why are you home so early?”

As she hung up her coat in the closet, she answered, “Trudy ate some bad prunes and we all had to vamoose.”

“Trudy.” I nodded and wiped my forehead again. “Of course.”

She stood in the doorway to the living room with her hands on her hips. “What’s your name, young man?”

He looked over his shoulder and grinned. “James.”

“Well, James, welcome to the homestead.” She sat down at the table and took a sip of coffee from the cup I poured for him.

He pointed to one of the items. “Hey! You guys have a signed ball from the final game when the Sloths played the Greenskins!”

“That’s right. October 22, 19—.”

He pulled a chair up to the table and sat on it backwards. “You remember the exact date?”

“Hmph!” Mother put down the cup and pushed herself back from the table. “How could I forget? I was trying my damnedest to hold off giving birth to her!”

She was pointing at me.

He looked from me to Mother and laughed. “What are you talking about?”

“She arrived right after midnight! I managed to keep ‘er in until after the end of the game! How d’you like that?”

“But that was in 19—! No way that’s her birthday.”

Mother closed her eyes and nodded her head up and down, up and down. “Oh yes, siree, it is. I of all people would know.”

If Mother had only opened her eyes, she would have seen mine, glowing like two round infernos, seeking nothing but to incinerate her.

His grin now contorted his face as though he had tasted something very bad. “Ah, uh, okay…” he started. Looking down at his hands, he said to me, “I thought you told me you were in college.”

“No, I said I had credits to make up.”

“She’s had a lot of troubles,” my mother cut in.

“Okay, well,” he said, standing up and looking around, “I am in college, so I’ve got to, you know, go study for my finals. So I can graduate.” He pushed in his chair. “Thanks for the coffee.”

Mother got up and saw him to the door while I sat and stared at the wall clock.

IV.

When he left, I got up and followed her into the living room as she headed for her recliner. “How could you do this to me? I liked him! Now you’ve gone and chased him away like every other guy who even holds open a door for me—”

Mother turned around and her eyes were magnified to the very rims of her glasses. “What did I do wrong? How was I s’posed to know you lied about your age?”

“I did not lie! I never said anything about my age! Why’d you tell that stupid story? No one wants to hear about someone giving birth!”

“Well, I thought he was into sports.”           

“Yes, into sports, not in the athletics of your birth canal! Gah! I can’t believe you did this to me yet again!”

Mother’s jaw dropped and her mouth formed a perfect circle. “He would’ve figured it out sooner or later.”

That facial expression never did anything but enrage me, so I didn’t say another word to her and went to my room, slamming the door. I got into bed and pulled my comforter over my head.

In less than a minute, I heard a very faint knock at the door. “Honey? Don’t be mad at me. Please don’t be mad at me.” Three more knocks.

I pulled the comforter off my head long enough to shout, “Leave me alone! I hate you!”

The door opened and Mother took a single step into my room. “Please don’t be mad.”

I did not reply.

“What d’you want for lunch? Fettuccini alfredo?”

“…Is it from a jar or homemade?”

“You have to ask?”

Still under my covers, I replied, “Sounds good.”

THE END.

49 thoughts on “I Never Made Lunch For Mother.

        1. You know, I thought of your comment the other day when I had to wait hours outside an urgent care clinic for a covid test. Among the group was a college kid. He had waited hours too and said he had finals the next day. So I thought, this is great, I can test out my dialogue. So I asked about studying, and he starts laughing that he wasn’t planning to, and then an old lady jumped in talking about her grandson, and that was that.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. That’s really interesting Hetty. I love the suggestion of manipulation, it eases in so slowly it almost overpowers you in the conclusion. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I didn’t go into edit mode real hard because it would have interfered with all the other bad advice and fawning. -ing and passive verb starts. But you always stay on the tracks. You know, some people will complain and never learn to see what’s pissing them off, so I politely shredded his bit with the two kids playing in primordial mud and sent him the notes via email. Detailed, no asshole. The stuff profs and editors do. For some reason the most difficult thing for the amateur writer to get is logical progression and logic holes. Like where did the baskets come from? Set that up. What is the next paragraph not the one that should have gone up there two paragraphs before now. Like I would try like hell not to modify said with anything, even a body beat. Elmore Leonard beat that with direction dialog tags. And Putzger saving now “Who da fuck…” His gun coming out of the shiny coat, the table exploding in front of him, blood. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. Rudy saying “Careless will get you killed. Ain’t that what you always said?” “Yeah.Awww…shit..” Rudy pushed his chair back, walked around the table, grabbed a handful of greasy hair, lifted the Putz’s face out of a plate of ravioli. “No shit ‘aw shit’ motherfucker.” He dropped Putz back in the Ravioli. Walking away he ignored the stares, wiped his hand on napkin from the next table, tossed it on the bar. Outside it was hot on South Guadalupe street. He slid on his RayBans, leaned his palms on the cab, dusted his right boot on his left calf saying to the cab driver “Drive away from the sirens. Like a citizen, no Grand Prix shit. Got it?” The Nigerian primed his meter box saying “Yah boss.” He checked his mirror. “Time to go now.” He smiled a mouthful of gold, pulled a chrome .45 from his lap. “For bofus.” Rudy shot him through the seat, twice saying “Well,” he checked the ID on the visor, “Nwebeki. So much for the citizenship class.”

            Liked by 2 people

            1. You give some good examples here. What I don’t understand about myself is that I was fully aware of the awkwardness of the particular sentences you highlighted and yet I did it anyway hoping you wouldn’t notice.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Here’s where exposure and training get in the way. I refer to myself as a stumbling reader/listener. I don’t go into a work looking to get thrown out. I go in looking for the ride, but certain things take me out. It could be something great as well as slop or cliche. None of that is to say I am anywhere near slop free, only that I notice. Example – 50 years ago, almost, someone played me a Hubert Laws record where he played flute in the Taj Mahal and was all about how amazing the flute playing was and the whole time I was thinking screw the flute, where do I get that reverb?

                Liked by 1 person

                1. There’s a lot to say in this topic and others you mentioned… maybe not for the comment section, but what I’ll say is that there’s a give-and-take and it’s helpful to have people call you (the general you) on your shit. Teaches you not to be lazy and disrespectful of your audience…

                  Liked by 1 person

            2. I believe we incorporated your (PH) edits in that muddy kids story… Made it tolerable, if I recall.
              Here’s a youtuber I watch from time to time. I think the guy is an ex-con who learned botany while in the joint. This vid takes place in Texas, near the Rio Grande. The dude’s language, irreverence and knock-ya-down knowledge of plants is simultaneously hilarious and mesmerizing:
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxgD4pWSLfc

              Liked by 2 people

  2. This is a really good story, Hetty. I can just imagine how tough it is for a young lady to have a boy over – be it in the -friend- or -boyfriend- categories. Either mum and sometimes dad telling embarrassing stories, or giving the boy the third degree about looking after daughter. If that’s not the case boy becomes infatuated with her mother and ignores her daughter. It’s not surprising daughter often hides her friends.
    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fiction with a dab o’ truth, the tastiest kind.
    Glad to see you embracing your imagination.
    I found myself engaged well enough to be mildly shocked at James snatching of your umbrella and poking you with it, a stranger with such nerve! But then, how much of a stranger was he? So there’s either something hidden there, or you’ve got some unexpected behavior woven in that may not fit. But we’ll go with the first.
    You have a good blend of details to story.
    I’m guessin’ this was a stream-of-consciousness type exercise. Start it in bed and see where it takes you…
    > After a few more moments of reflection < (ha!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t be so shocked at the nerve people will have in cases of mistaken identity. Not that I would know. I don’t remember how the details of the story came about but it is about a codependent mother-daughter relationship. She ruins your life, and five minutes later is making you a tasty homemade lunch.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That was pretty fun, no one sets a scene like you do. Omgggg 😂 the birthing story. No joke – worked with a woman who would stand up, get in a cray squatting position, and give VERY detailed accounts of her unusual deliveries —- and the end was great – reminded me of Big Bang theory with Howard and his mom!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t know how you do it, Hetty. Fiction is not exactly the easiest genre to share here on WordPress, but still you get amazing engagement every time you do. I guess that’s a testament of your grasp on story—not that I didn’t know that already. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Boy you do not like people commenting on your poetry! I read “Get your mangers here” and I love it. The incorporation of the dialogue (Side Note: I think dialogue + poetry is one of those unexpectedly awesome, and totally underrated combinations), the IKEA-like assembly experience, the sassy angel salesperson/customer service character, and the manger-crib-cross connection. So well-done

    Liked by 2 people

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