Honourable mention in the 8th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
They met at a steelworks in Gary, Indiana. In 1943 most of the young men were overseas killing Germans instead of cleaning the tops of blast furnaces. As the story went, it happened in the cafeteria when my father asked my mother to pass the salt. Personally, I would have preferred a daring rescue scenario, but such was life.
My father was 4‐F. The government said he didn’t have to go to war because he had no arches in his feet. He also didn’t have a sense of humour, not like my mother did. Eventually, when he couldn’t handle the set-up his life was becoming, he decided not to wait around for the punchline and split like a banana in the same bowl with hot fudge and a maraschino cherry. That was my mother’s joke and she always laughed, but it was the kind of laughter that worked very hard to hide something else. Still, I went along, smiling at the right times, delivering my lines the way they were written in the script. Easier that way. In return, my mother didn’t look too carefully either. Our pain was our pain and to each his or her own.
She was my AM radio queen. She was push or pull, all or nothing. No middle ground. My first crush and my first heartbreak. She left when I was eighteen even though it was supposed to be the other way around. My mother was the one that needed space, her own life. She went looking. She sent postcards. Every time no return address. I waited.
Finally caught up to her in Palm Springs, of all places. Twenty years later. She got condo crazy. She went suburban silly. One of those gated communities. Pink stucco, pastel golf clothes and afternoon highballs at the club. She married money and the old man that came along with it. They had some good times together. When he died she got rich. That didn’t last either. Some pretty boy in a red convertible sold her on a land deal, but the land was a swamp and the sports car was leased. She blew what was left of the dough on a facelift.
It was what the doctor said that made her include the return address on that last postcard. When I got there, the first thing she told me–cough–was about the sickness–cough–ripping through her–cough–like a–cough–forest fire, using her bones for kindling as it–cough–ate up the oxygen in her–cough–lungs. The last thing she told me was that my inheritance was under the bed, in a shoebox. After the ceremony, I looked and the shoebox was filled with stacks of Monopoly money. As I said, my mother had a sense of humour.
That’s her, the space alien on the left.
Or maybe the right.