Short Stories

We the Mothers

We the Mothers originally appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Spring 2020 Issue 38 and was a winner in the Bellevue Literary Review 2020 Fiction Contest.

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We sought each out while trying to shake off a persistent state of shock. We sought each other out because of an urgent to pull to speak to someone who wasn’t our son, our spouse, our mother, father, sister, the lawyer we hired. We sought each other out when our therapists suggested we connect with someone suffering the same devastation we were. We sought each other out while thinking: Our son had been a preemie. Why didn’t I follow the ordered bedrest when I was pregnant? Our son spent more of his early years with his nanny than he did with us. Did I really have to work that hard? Our son was in utero at a time when it was okay to have a glass of wine a day while pregnant. I should have known better. Our son has two moms. Promise you won’t tell her I think this. Our son was born to someone too old to be a mom. How had I missed the loudly ticking clock? We sought each other out when we couldn’t silence the voice in our heads asking over and over: Was this our fault?

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Strong Enough to Carry Him

Strong Enough to Carry Him originally appeared in Gettysburg Review Issue 29:2 Summer 2016.

When an old man’s body was found stuffed into a big, ratty, old suitcase, ditched in the winter behind an abandoned building in the Bronx, it didn’t take the police long to find the makeshift undertaker. The woman’s name and address were scribbled in childlike cursive on a piece of masking tape that had long before been affixed to a spot just below the handle. The police were waiting at her door when she got home from work. She invited them in and didn’t run out of words until they ran out of questions.

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These Days

These Days originally appeared in Meridian Winter 2017.

To Marissa’s query about whether they should be concerned, Kendra said: it’s sleep deprivation, she’s just really tired. You can’t worry about someone who’s said she manages to keep the house in at least superficial order and makes a passable dinner a couple times a week, I mean, that’s better than the rest of us manage, right? But I saw her ad for a twice-weekly housekeeper, Danielle noted, so it seems our little Ms. I Can Do It All is a little more overwhelmed than she’s letting on, apparently she never got the memo that you’re not expected to pass the white glove test when there’s a baby in the house. Wait, said Quinn, she told me that her husband’s a way better cook than she’ll ever be, there was a housekeeper working there when I stopped by a few days ago, and someone told me that they’d bumped into her sister out walking with the baby on a couple of recent evenings. She’s got plenty of help, so I’m worried that maybe there is something going on. Wouldn’t a good OB/GYN screen her for something, Marissa wondered, because if you’re still dead tired after the housekeeper’s cleaning and your husband’s cooking, it seems like you’d mention it to your doctor. It’s hormonal, quipped Lauren, not much you can do about that. It’s only been a day or two since she posted to ask if she was the only one feeling like they’re constantly slogging through wet cement, Kendra said, and it’s not like something really serious springs up overnight, let’s not overreact.

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Beating, Like a Drum

Beating, Like a Drum originally appeared in Please See Me, Issue #3, December 2019.

As the yoga teacher whispers us back from Savasana, I sense that she’s disappeared the grim reaper; even, apparently, from the dark recesses of the elderly woman softly snoring in the corner. But when I open my eyes I catch the glint of his scythe. He’s there, though moving backward, away from me, bending into Utkatasana—chair pose. He turns and fades behind a billowing curtain. Gone, but not.

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Janis originally appeared in Contrary Magazine Fall/Winter 2014.

It was black-dark and pounding rain and no one was around to see her slip, barefoot, in the mud outside the car where she’d just finished the last cigarette in the pack, and not only had she muddied the knees and tattered-to-frays bell bottoms of her low-slung jeans, her hair had flattened against her head and hung down her shoulders in soppy strands and her feet and hands were slick with muck when she swung open the door of the tiny diner where Elvis was sitting alone at a corner table; and you might think she couldn’t have cared about the mess she was, but you’d be wrong; in spite of what you think, she was shy and had a hard time shaking her embarrassment even long after he’d beckoned her to his table with a warm, crooked smile, handfuls of paper napkins and the flash of a monogrammed silver flask, pulled from black velvet jeans. Even though it was past midnight and the diner was supposed to have been long closed, the waitress told the cook she’d take it from there so long as they didn’t order anything too fancy and then didn’t bat an eyelash when they suggested in their quiet, throaty voices, that she go home herself as it’d been a very long time since either of them had slung hash and they felt a peculiar urge and don’t worry, they’d clean up and here you go, he said, after a race between them to see who could get to their pockets first, handing her a wadded up hundred dollar bill that had seen better days, and out she went with barely a backward glance, and they laughed at how easy it had been. If only everything was so simple.

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Judged originally appeared in Foundling Review February 2013.

So it’s come to this, Your Honor. You on the pedestal, eyes ceilingward while the lawyers on the case before mine babble on. I’ve no option left but to put my faith in you, to trust that you’ll cut through the bullshit, ferret out the truth and do the right thing. Judge of matters superior, assessor of evidence, impartial decision-maker in the interest of all things just, you seem too unfeeling to decide my fate. Bad enough I lost him to the dazzling redhead new hire in the branch office on the other side of the globe, but now he wants my boy, and so shamelessly litters your file with overblown illustrations of my initial wrath: transcripts of embarrassing messages that look so much worse in print, close-up images of a smashed-to-bits windshield, tiny shards clinging to the metal frame, the hammer, in still life relief on the hood, and all those pages and pages, logs of cell phone calls that when displayed like that look rapid-fire and insistent, don’t they and—shit, sir, excuse me, but though your gaze looks wise, you seem bored as all get out. I’m worried, Honorable Apathetic, what can you possibly know about a mother’s passion?

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A Note to My Successor

A Note to My Successor originally appeared in Per Contra Issue 23 Spring 2012.

I sit at my dressing table aware that it won’t be my dressing table for long. You may decide to keep it, and really you should. I’d hang on to it myself, were I not so afraid of the memories. It’s an antique that Rick and I picked up from a clever little shop in the Paris flea market. The spidery cracks in the veneer have become darker, more noticeable over the years, but so have those in my face. That Rick is trading me in for you does not bode well for the table, I suppose, but before you donate it to Goodwill you should really give it some time. Sit at it like I do every evening, and notice how perfectly suited the drawer is for hairbrushes, a string of pearls, your wedding ring.  Gently rub your finger across the tiny cracks and maybe you’ll appreciate the texture they supply, sense the history in this beautiful piece and allow your imagination to see the others who’ve sat here before you.  But maybe you’re not one to care much about those who have been before you.

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