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Honourable mention in the 8th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
It’s been three weeks since Mama ran away from home. Daddy turned the kitchen table over with everything still on it when she left. Tonight he wears his Christmas sweater and his wedding shoes. He stuffs KFC napkins into the pockets of his best pants. It’s parent night at my school and I have a fingerpainting with a gold star on the wall.
In the car, I smell Mama, the scent of her Chantilly in the blue checkered seat covers. Daddy says this is her job, she should be doing this, he’s already put in a full day’s work.
“Christ,” he says.
I show him my classroom, my desk, my painting. Mrs. Cushman comes over, smiles and says “Tammy is quite the artist.” Daddy says he’s glad to hear it, says Mama would have been here but she’s sick. He pulls out the napkins, there’s a vein twitching over his left eye, he wipes his shining forehead, blows his nose.
Mrs. Cushman tells us she hopes we’ll stay to enjoy some juice and home-baked cookies. She puts out her hand, says “It’s been so nice to meet you,” and when she’s gone Daddy says “Let’s hit the road.”
On our way out we pass people coming in—ladies, perfumed, and fathers taking pictures, they laugh and somebody says By Jeezuz, isn’t that just about the best thing you’ve ever seen in your life… about a painting in the hall without a gold star—and a mother, who from the side could be mine except she’s holding someone else’s hand, and the freckled girl in my class, who looks at me then turns her head as her mum leans down, wipes her chin with spit-wet fingers—and the only thing I know for sure in the whole world is this: every one of them is going to stay to enjoy the cookies and the juice.