Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces" by Kimila Bowling: 2010 Honorable Mention

Fate penciled me in that afternoon. I merely showed up, and the ability to differentiate reality from fantasy revealed itself. At seven I didn’t understand this developmental leap, nor was I conscious a cognitive enlightenment had occurred. I simply knew special wasn’t special anymore.

My final day of blessed ignorance to the actualities of life began in our nook and cranny kitchen on the east side of Scobey, Mississippi. I sat at the dinette in the nook eating a peanut butter-plastered pancake. I’d yet to dress for the day.

A bad case of the “Arthur” had Granny Tulley stoved-up. She’d called earlier in the morning to relay this information and report cheese and crackers had sustained her for the past two days. Although everyone knew a woman of Granny’s proportion could never be satisfied with meager morsels of Ritz and cheddar, Momma succumbed to the woman who described childbirth as a near-death experience and went to her mother’s aid; thus, keeping a daughter’s conscious clear.

Dad entered the cranny portion of the kitchen scuffing his bare feet across the linoleum.

“We’re on our own, kid.”

He scratched the back of his head and shuffled a tight one-eighty to keep his rhythm.

“Get dressed. I need to go to Jax’s.”

On his way out, he slid the newspaper off the counter and poked it under one arm.
I abandoned my breakfast and high-kneed a skip to my room.

By the time we pulled in front of Jax’s, which by the way took up space in downtown Scobey, the sun could see its reflection on the side of the water tower, and it looked as if we had arrived too late. For what, I didn’t know. But the line at the movie house stretched half a block, and the Assembly’s bake sale had dwindled to a few pies.

When Dad’s soles hit the graveled and tarred surface, he squinted and butted the side of his hand along the top of his eyebrows. He let his eyes bounce along the sidewalks where they eventually settled on Laura Jean Dell.

“How’d you like to see a movie?” he asked, dragging me to the freckled-faced teen.

He handed me two dollars after promising Laura Jean five if she’d see me to The Fontaine Theater. She agreed, liberating Dad and sentencing me to a double matinee featuring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. Three hours passed before I saw daylight again.

Upon leaving The Fontaine, Laura Jean took me aside then bent over until our eyes met.

“Go get your Dad. He promised me five dollars.”

I could smell the teenage girl’s cinnamon clove gum as I watched her jaw slid to one side every time she squashed it between her teeth. While balancing on my right leg, I scratched the back of its calf with the top of my left sandal.

“Can’t you come with me? He’s just over there.” I pointed across the street to Jax’s.

“I’ll walk you across the street but I can’t go in. My mom says I’ll get a bad reputation if I’m seen going in there.”

I thought about what she’d said then asked, “What about mine?”

“You’re not old enough to get one,” she said.

My elder’s logic made sense. So I skipped across the street.

Inside Jax’s, cirrus layers of lingering tobacco smoke obscured the already insufficient lighting. Pool balls clacking against one another and the random launching of cuss words created momentary breaks in the chatter and laughter. I kept one hand on the door, self-appointing it home as one would in a game of hide and seek, until I found Dad. He was leaning on a pool stick, holding a bottle between his thumb and forefinger. I went to him.

“Dad,” I said tugging on his britches leg, looking in the vicinity his eyes would be if he were to look at me.

“Hey, kid. Movie over?” he asked. He checked the time before finding my gaze.

“Yeah, and Laura Jean wants her money.”

He handed off the pool stick then took my hand. As we walked to the door, he guzzled the last drink from his bottle before leaving it on the bar. After Dad paid Laura Jean, we crossed the street and ventured into Pryce’s Grocery and Dry Goods. By now, movement on main street had become sporadic, and old men had begun trickling into the store as slowly as leaves falling from a border oak in mid-September. Their seats, stacked wooden crates, formed the customary circle for their afternoon gathering. Some packed a jaw with tobacco while others rolled a smoke. Success of the American Legion team started the powwow early.

Lunch had come and gone, and neither Dad nor I had eaten anything, at least nothing worth mentioning. Dad asked Mr. Pryce to fix him a bologna and hot pepper cheese sandwich, and after several minutes of deliberation, I settled on pickle loaf with mustard, voicing a preference to having the condiment spread on both slices of bread. Mr. Pryce took note. Dad then chose an RC. I favored a grape Nehi.

I didn’t remember Dad saying go. I didn’t know we were racing, but as Mr. Pryce handed me my sandwich, Dad poked his last bite into his mouth. He chased it with a drink and was looking in one of the glass cases which lined both sides of the register before swallowing either.

Mr. Pryce left his domain behind the meat counter to join him. On his way, he lifted his apron with one hand then individually twisted each finger of the opposite hand into the stained fabric. He continued the process as he stood across the glass case from Dad.

After a few bites of pickle loaf and a bottle of Nehi, I felt full. As I wiped mustard off my chin, I decided to linger at the front of the store. Items in the glass case held Dad’s interest, and the old men, who once looked harmless, had traded baseball and a friendly slap on the back for the rising cost of seed and keeping one’s hands to oneself.

At its brightest, the sun spotlighted the best Pryce’s had to offer. Now, its diminishing rays had to stretch to reach the display window, resulting in a partially drawn curtain of darkness. Offstage, a pair of watches – one for a lady, the other a man – passed their time on a piece of black velveteen. Still on stage, a headless mannequin modeled a lace-collared blouse with a floral print skirt. In a sunlit corner, a six-tier pyramid of Libby’s canned vegetables displayed a sign naming it the special of the week. But center stage. Center stage held the answer to coping with the rise in seed prices, Annette’s answer to persuading Frankie to take her to the beach party, and Momma’s answer to squashing Granny Tulley’s power of conviction. The main attraction was a pair of tan shoes, size eleven. A bargain at $7.50. Especially, since they came with pink shoelaces.

Dad had remained focused on the trinkets in the case. As I closed the distance between us, he made his decision and indicated so by pointing. Mr. Pryce retrieved the item, placed it in a small box, then they slid in unison to the register.

“Dad,” I said as I bounced on my tiptoes. “The shoes.”

I tried to take his hand, but he lifted it out of my reach. My fingers found his back pocket where I tugged each syllable.

“Pleeease, Dad-dy. The shoes in the win-dow. They’re just my size.”

Mr. Pryce’s hand hung by its fingertips on the register’s handle as he looked toward me, then at Dad, and repeat the process several times. His pause compelled me to clasp my hands under my chin and look up. As Dad smiled at the man behind the counter, he shook his head. When I heard the register’s drawer open, I realize my shameless display of desperation had gone unheeded.

Outside, Dad opened the driver’s side door of the truck and waited. Unwanted tears came but I didn’t swipe. My hands stayed prisoners in my pockets until I crawled in the truck.

We didn’t turn toward home but continued down the street passed Jax’s and The Fontaine.

“This isn’t the way home,” I said before sitting on my knees, choosing to watch where we’d been instead of where we were going.

Dad pulled his visor down then opened his window. My hair twirled around my face as a willow in a windstorm. I tucked it behind my ears; however, more strands than not continued to wave.

“I need to take care of something. You don’t mind do you?”

My shoulders said they didn’t care before I rested my chin on the back of the seat. From the corner of my eye, I watched him take a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. He shook up a Benson and Hedges, threw the pack on the dash, then pushed in the lighter. As he waited for it to pop, he asked, “How about some music?” He smiled and beckoned me to his side with a head gesture.

The lighter clicked before I could answer, and within seconds, I could see smoke swirling above his head. When I turned and sat close to him, he took this for a yes and turn the radio on.

The Beatles and Dylan took us as far as the first left, directly passed the mill. Patty Page sang until we reached the fork in the road, then Neil Diamond ushered us to the Charlton’s mailbox and up their driveway.

The paint on the house reminded me of a half-scaled crappie, and the one dangling shutter of a hook in its bottom lip. No automobile sat beside the house. No one played in the yard. No dog lay on the porch and no one came to the door. The only declarations of occupancy were the open front door and the laundry hanging from the clothesline alongside the house.

Before Dad went to the door, he placed a kiss on my cheek. I found it odd he entered without knocking. More so when he let the screen door slap against the wooden frame.

I spent time watching the breeze swing the clothes on the line. One of the unmentionables conveyed the owner’s shared liking for my favorite color, red, indicating her appreciation for the unorthodox. She would surely sympathize with me on my recent disappointment in Dad for denying me the last pair of shoes I would ever ask for.

Time had passed since I’d enjoyed the grape Nehi, and last year when Granny Tulley started blaming her occasional accidents on a stretched bladder, I no longer waited until squirming or crossing my legs became necessary. A refusal to risk a regression to where I wet myself had become the rule.

Honeysuckle blossomed a few feet beyond the row of laundry. I pushed open the truck’s door and slid from the seat. After confident the foliage provided ample coverage, I prepared myself and squatted. My eyes watered as relief came to my bladder, and I assured myself serious expansion had been averted.

When I started back to the truck, the colorful undergarment waved, proudly displaying itself, imitating a flag flying high, nobly symbolizing what it represented. I thought they came in one color--white, the color of Momma’s. Wary, nevertheless intrigued, I reached to touch it, but Dad’s voice passing through an opened window pulled my attention toward him.

“Come on,” he said. “give me more time.”

A woman answered. “I’m tired of waiting.”

“Here sweetheart,” Dad again. “I bought you something.”

The woman squealed then thanked Dad with the recognizable slurps and smacks dads and mommas were suppose to share.

“A little more time?” Dad said.

Enough had been heard. Too many things had been exposed. I retreated but in my haste, a pair of woman’s slacks levitated in front of me. Tangled in britches and stumbling, I groped the air for something, anything, to keep me upright, but all my outstretched fingers snagged was one of the red bra’s shoulder straps. I then heard the wooden clothespins give to the added weight and snap from the line. Closing my eyes, I braced for the fall.

Dad must have heard the commotion because when I opened my eyes, he was looking down at me.

“What are you doing?” He took his hands off his hips and extended one to me.

Ignoring his offer, I got to my feet and brushed passed him. “I had to pee.”

He stayed on my heels until we neared the truck where he double-timed his pace and opened his door for me.

Side-stepping the usual routine, I marched to my side and climbed in. He kept silent as he sat behind the wheel and turned the key. After backing out of the yard, he proceeded down the driveway. This time turning toward home.

With the sun now to our backs, he slapped up his visor then cranked his window, leaving a smoker’s crack. I sat close to my door letting the space between us provided an invisible barrier. A barrier a single word could crumble. An emotional safeguard I knew wouldn’t last.

“Are you all right?” he asked before searching the dash for his pack of cigarettes. After finding them, he lit one and returned the pack to his shirt pocket.

“Fine,” I said. But I wasn’t.

The radio crackled between bouts of music. Instead of tuning in on a station, he clicked it off. While holding the wheel and cigarette in one hand, he reached over and skimmed his fingertips down my hair. I kept my eyes on the road and pulled away. An unspoken answer to his unspoken question.

He switched his driving hand and drew a long pull off his cigarette, but before the cherry dimmed, he snapped his back straight and gripped the wheel at ten and two.

“Hey,” he said, hitting the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. “How about we stop at Pryce’s and get you those shoes?” He shook his head in an effort to convince us both he’d found the answer.

“Yep. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll go back. We’ll go back and get those shoes.”

He turned to watch the road before he accelerated, unaware I no longer shared his newly found optimism of the shoe’s powers or his desire for something new and unique. I now craved pancakes, peanut butter, and a pretense of reality as I fostered a hatred for those shoes and the type of girl who would wear them.

By the time we passed the city limit’s sign, the vining morning glories twisting around its wooden post had lost their day’s blooms. The vapor lights lining the streets had completed their evening ritual of flickering on and off; a momentary period of indecision usually resulting in illumination and a lulling hum.

I looked at him because as yet, he hadn’t turned on the headlights. However, I found myself unable to turn away as he maintained a position so close to the wheel he could’ve used it for a chin rest. Further inspection brought me to a pulsing ball of jaw muscle and a perpetual trail of sweat running along the front of his ear. I then noticed his stare which never wavered from the road. I saw a man determined to change the course of a storm, and his refusal to accept the finality of time. I, on the other hand, had resentfully accepted both.

Kimila Bowling - Biography

My father had a Kraco eight-track in his grasshopper- green Ford pickup. When I would go with him, he’d play my favorite song, “Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces,” and I did want a pair of those shoes.
As time passed, I grew up and realized tan was sort of bland and pink clashed with my skin tone. I also discovered you’re supposed to duck while riding in a grasshopper- green truck.
Trying to move forward with my life, I attended a program to become a court stenographer, but I found the dialogue between the attorney and witness boring. It was a constant struggle not to embellish testimony during transcription. I then went through a delusional phase and attended cosmetology and manicurist school. I can’t do hair. I can’t do nails, but I can buy hair products wholesale.
I did, however, work in the insurance industry for fifteen years but kept my storytelling alive while tracking wanted clients for a bail bondsman.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Catch A Tiger by the Toe: 2010 Honorable Mention by Marie Hermet

1. Mitzi

Maybe nothing would ever have happened but for the Christmas stockings. Hand sewn in red and green felt, they were the saddest things I had seen in a long time. As soon as I noticed them, hanging gloomily from every doorknob, I knew that I wanted to marry him.

It was my first visit to Paul’s home, on Whitsun Sunday. His house near Paris was covered with vine and wisteria spilled over the garden walls. From his bedroom window, we had a view on the shimmering skyline along the Seine, but this dusty red stocking was dangling from the handle and there were foil paper angels fluttering in the draughts. In the kitchen, a flashing garland screeched Jingle Bells when you flicked the switch. Over the cooking range someone had tacked a child’s drawing of a house. It was dedicated in large clumsy letters « To the Best Mom in the World ».
The best mom in the world had walked out the summer before to start a new life in Gopherville, Arkansas, with a nightclub owner who specialized in Country music and sex scandals involving underage performers. Dolly had simply vanished from the lives of her husband and daughter, leaving one in care of the other.

Once they got over the first shock, Paul and Lena enjoyed living by themselves. Paul managed to cut his working hours and came back early every night to mess about in the kitchen with his daughter. They invented zany recipes and grew carnivorous plants, secretly watching each other for signs of loneliness. For Christmas, they decided that it would be the just the two of them. Lena cut snowflakes out of white paper and worked hard on her father’s present: a box decorated with tiny shells from last summer’s holidays. Slightly tipsy from the champagne, half buried under layers of torn gift wrappings, she swore that this was her best Christmas ever. She was about to turn eleven.

In January Paul hired a private investigator to locate his wife and start divorce proceedings. Dolly readily agreed to everything; the one thing she asked was permission to visit her daughter in Paris for the winter holidays. She flew back to France, dropped her suitcases in the guest room and opened her arms for Lena to fall into as if nothing had ever happened. Lena started working out schemes to make her mother stay, but Paul, who was quietly putting away the whisky glasses Dolly forgot in her wake, knew that they were doomed. This time, he didn’t even try to search out for the bottles Dolly was hoarding like mice hoard cotton wool for winter.
On the last day before Dolly’s flight home was due, Paul came back after work and found the house empty.

Mother and child had vanished. The car was not in the garage. They could not have gone to the movies and taken the hall carpet with them, could they? It had been torn away from its nails; tufts of wool remained stuck on the bare wood floor. Pictures were missing too, leaving pale squares on the wall. Paul dragged himself through one room after another, counting his losses, looking for clues. The child’s bedroom was a war zone: clothes, toys, stuffed animals, torn cardboard boxes and ripped open suitcases had been hurled across the room. Burdened with the all the luggage she intended to take with her, Dolly had left her daughter’s treasures behind. Paul did not walk in; he just clicked the door shut. On the landing he found one pink plastic thong, size 4, with a torn strap. Clutching it to his chest, he started sobbing at last.

After a while, he gave a few phone calls and found out that his daughter was already flying over Knoxville with her mother. There was nothing he could do. The child’s passport was valid and Dolly was entitled to take her anywhere she pleased. She had chosen the small town she had been raised in.

Ironically, the nearest city was called Hope.

I had met him through friends. With his sad smile and shock of hair touched with gray, Paul looked like a boy grown too fast, weighted down by some secret sorrow. We talked until dawn, then he walked me home and kissed me goodnight at my door. We didn’t feel like rushing; we thought we might have a whole lifetime before us. When Lena disappeared, things changed. Paul’s usually dazed look grew into something darker. He started wandering about in his own private nightmare, misplacing his glasses, his keys, his pocketbook, his telephone – he went nowhere without it for fear of missing a call from Dolly, which never came – even his car. He forgot to eat. He was so distracted that I was afraid he would forget to breathe. By then I was so much in love that I would have moved mountains to see him smile. I could not bear to see him heartbroken. One year later we were married.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Dolly had given birth to a new daughter, Claire. Lena missed her father. It proved easy enough to convince Dolly to send her eldest child back to us, and this is when the real trouble started.

2. Lena

I thrashed Bitchy all right tonight. It was brilliant.
Her real name is Mitzi– how ridiculous is that? But I call her Bitchy. Actually, my mom suggested it, but then it suits her perfectly. Of course Bitchy doesn’t have a clue. I have to confess that I hide a few things from Mom too: for example, I haven’t told her yet that sometimes I call Bitchy Mommy. She would hate it, obviously. Poor Mom. It’s hard for her to be so far from me, even though she was the one who left. She calls me every day, and when I am not home, she calls again to leave desperate messages. She keeps asking why I chose to live with my father, and I don’t know what I can say to that. As soon as she starts speaking I know exactly how many drinks she’s had. She is louder after four or five, from six onwards she moans that I abandoned her, and often she ends up sobbing or screaming at me, when it is late at home in Arkansas and she’s had way too many.

So why would I call Bitchy Mommy? Because it pleases them all so much. Not Bitchy, exactly: it unsettles her rather than making her happy, which is fun too. But Grandma loves it. She probably believes that all is well that ends well. And Dad is so glad to see that I adopted his new wife… He thanked me for it the other day. I am his perfect little girl, the jewel of his crown, and ours is the perfect new family. If he only knew! It’s a good thing that no one hears us talking on the phone, Mom and I.

So, tonight, Grandma and Granddad were coming over for dinner. Bitchy spent the whole day running around like a panic-stricken bat. She fumbled about in the kitchen for hours, polishing the silver – which I wouldn’t mind nicking, then burnt her fingers on the oven while trying out fancy recipes. I asked her if she wanted some help, but she brushed me off: she didn’t want me under her feet. I got my revenge when I pinched the foie gras and took it up to my room for a taste. I love foie gras. When I returned it, minus several fat slices, she was livid, but what could she say? And then she asked me to help set the table, but I told her I had homework to do. Who did she think I was? Her household slave?
So we were gathered around the table, all on our best behavior, and I was bored to death. I was sitting next to Dad, as usual. I waited for a lull in the conversation and then I cleared my voice and dropped my bomb:

– Dad?
– Yes, dear?
– Is Mitzi older than you are?

By then, I had everyone’s attention.

Dad mumbled something like:

– Eh? …. Ah… Well, maybe a teeny bit, but why?

Grandpa chose precisely this moment to ask Bitchy whether she could recommend a good film, but they all heard my answer anyway.

– Because it shows.

I saw her flinch and turn scarlet. I looked down at my plate, but our eyes had met. At first she got that incredulous, too stunned to react look… but then I saw outrage and fury. It was as if she was split open and I could see the gears. I had to bite my cheeks hard not to burst out laughing. Thankfully, I could hide behind my hair… I ate off everything in my plate without raising my head, feeling on top of the world. From time to time, I stole a glimpse from under my bangs. She was happily chatting away, but her smile was a shade too bright. After a while, she excused herself and went to the bathroom. She stayed there for quite a long time. I could practically see her checking out every single inch of skin in the mirror, looking out for creases and wrinkles…

I have always heard Grandma say that of the mouths of babes comes forth truth.

3. Mitzi

Lena has been playing truant all year; not a week went by without phone calls from the school, asking what she was up to. Yesterday I had to drive over to pick her up: she was sick. When I arrived at the infirmary, for half a second I did not see Lena, but a strange girl whom I did not immediately recognize. A girl I did not like, slouching aslant in a chair, with hair in her face and legs wide apart. Her piercing was showing in a fold of white belly fat. The eyes she raised towards me registered absolutely nothing, not a flicker of recognition. They were big cat’s eyes, black with silent rage. Her stare chilled me. Usually she never really looks at me; when she needs to say something, she addresses the wall behind me, or the radiator, or the third button of my shirt. She’s been smoking pot again, of course, or worse. I am ashamed of her.

Paul says that it is only teen crisis. He doesn’t know yet that as a gesture of ultimate rebellion, she just had 666 tattooed on the inside of her left arm. Her favorite bands sport names like Aborted, Hatebreed or Suicide Silence. She stocks their collectibles and posts their messages on her walls, along with pictures of her father. He gave her a shoe box full of family photos, and now he is everywhere, in whole series of photo booth portraits, in his passport photos from the time he was three, in holiday snapshots, Paul skiing, Paul on the beach with a ring of girls around him, Paul playing Hendrix on air guitar, Paul with a tie on, probably on Graduation day, Paul with bell-bottoms, Paul thoughtful, holding a book, Paul cute and sexy…

Paul at the age Lena is today.

She has no friends that I know of. The only types she hangs around with are the Goth and Emo kids, loners like herself. They share dark secrets and apocalyptic dreams. When she is home, I feel her hate throbbing in the rooms like a pulse. She has taken this weird habit of hiding in inconspicuous corners, behind doors or curtains, and then materializing when we least expect it. I have an impression of being spied on all the time– or is it that I am going mad? And there are things missing from my desk or closet. When the pen Paul gave me for my birthday disappeared, I asked her for an explanation. She called her mother and told her that she wanted to go back to Arkansas, that she would not live in a house where she was treated like a thief and a liar… There was nothing I could do to plead my case. She knows that her father’s worst nightmare is to see her go, and she plays on that with uncanny virtuosity. Every whim of hers must be fulfilled immediately, or else. Her new fancy is to play drums; she also wants a ferret. Apparently, all her friends have pet ferrets. I should insist that it will be the ferret or me, but I am afraid Paul would choose the ferret.

We’ve been married two years and seven months and I don’t even recognize the man I loved. Last weekend, we had another row. Paul blames me for his daughter’s grades. I was mad with rage at the unfairness of it all, and still crying when he finally came to bed. He switched off the light without a word, turned his back to me, and two minutes later he started snoring. I got up without waking him, took the car keys and went out. I started to drive with no idea of where to go. I only wanted to get away as far as I could. I drove all night. When I finally came back, chilled to the bones, he was still storing. I went to sleep on the couch in the living room. It is an old battered shapeless thing, a makeshift raft in the wreck of our marriage. Watching the day rise between the shutters, I felt like a tramp waiting for dawn in a railway station. I could hear the rumble of the refrigerator. It was not a pleasant noise, but it kept me company.

4. Lena

Grown-ups have funny ideas about us children. They always imagine that we don’t have a clue, as if we were deaf and blind and unable to see what’s going on. They are totally convinced that they are “protecting” us… Not! Protecting us from what, when they don’t even have what it takes to stick together as a family long enough to raise their own kids? I know everything about my father and Bitchy. I know them even better than they know themselves. I love snooping. It’s super easy: when I’m home alone, I search their room, I read every letter I can lay my hands on, I poke through drawers and dressers. There are quite a few interesting items lying around in pockets and handbags as well. Dad leaves just about everything in his coat pockets, even big bucks, and afterwards he keeps looking for them. He never dared to ask me, but he had a row with Bitchy the other day because she had stuffed his jeans in the washing machine with three twenty-euro bills in the rear pocket… or so he thought. The funniest thing of all is that she started arguing, then things got ugly and she ended up crying! I told Mom the whole story and she laughed so hard she nearly split her sides.

Bitchy’s been crying a lot lately, anyway. Things are going downhill fast in this house. They can spend whole days without saying a word to one another. Often at dinner, Dad ignores her completely and speaks only to me. I tell him stories from school, things I make up, anything to hold his attention. She gets up to bring things from the kitchen and clear away, dour-faced and silent as a fish. Pathetic. You can see that she’s dreaming of being someplace else. Well, go, why don’t you? Get a life! While she plays around with her food without actually eating anything, I take second and third helpings, particularly at dessert. I just love eating.
I found a juicy letter that she wrote to Dad, complaining because he doesn’t even look at her anymore… It took him so long to get tired of her, almost three years, but I knew it was going to happen in the end. It was only a matter of time and patience.

“You come home at night, you pour a glass of wine for both of us and you lock yourself up in your study with your glass. You only get out for dinner. Dinner is chaos, impossible to share a few words without being interrupted.”
Yeah, I guess that’s true. I have things to say too.
“After dinner, you go directly back to your study, leaving me to clear the table. Later, often very late, you go to bed. I have been waiting for you. Bedtime: you slip under the covers, you rewind your alarm, and you switch off the light without a word. You fuck me in thirty seconds, hands off, or not at all. And that is the one variation in your routine.”

Not bad so far, is it? But my favorite part is the conclusion:

“ Am I so uninteresting that you don’t even feel like spending a few minutes of your time in my company?”

Well… thank you for pointing out the obvious, Mommy dear.

Marie Hermet

Marie Hermet wanted to be a hippie when she grew up. As it is, she studied Art in Paris, had a stint as a costume designer for the cinema, then finally graduated in English Literature. Currently living in Paris and working as a reader and translator for French publishers, it is her ambition to complete her PhD (about European exiles in Hollywood in the 1940s) before her granddaughter, aged two, finishes high school. Her short stories published in French include L’Oiseleur (awarded the Prix Pégase 2010) and La Reine des Neiges (prix du Musée des Lettres 2009). She believes, as Colum McCann puts it, that you write best not about what you know, but about what you want to know