CONTESTS

Once

C. E. COUGHLAN

Runner-up in the 1st Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.

For your mother’s birthday you made brunch: eggs with black beans and salsa and toasted English muffins, and she arrived in a black dress with lace straps. It was eleven o’clock in the morning. She slurred. Fucking Roger, she said, fucking guy, and sat down in my spot at the table.

You brought out the boxes of good china, unpacked them, flung the tissue paper in the garbage can. You poured three cups of tea, added cream all around and two packets of sugar to hers, slid them over. She stabbed her fork into the eggs and pushed them around the plate.

You peed your pants, she said, eight fucking years old, your first time at camp. I reached under the table and touched your knee.

Outside the window the clouds slipped by and we could hear the sound of a lawn mower. Your mother stood up with her plate. Wait, you said, and pulled the tissue paper out of the garbage can. Your eyes looked small. Now you can do it, you said. Your mother sat back down and stood up again and looked around the room. Needs a fresh coat of paint in here, she said, and scraped her plate over the garbage can and salsa and eggs slid onto the floor. You looked over at me. She named me after a little girl from a magazine ad in the fifties, either for soap or detergent, you said.

Your mother kneeled down and scooped up salsa with her hand. You turned on the taps and began to wash the china plates, teacups, saucers, bowls, then the knives and forks. I grabbed the dish towel and wiped them dry. You spread out the tissue paper and gently wrapped each piece and put them back into the boxes and stacked them on the lowest shelf of the breakfront.

Your mother said, I want to go for a run with the dogs, and she pulled the window curtains shut.

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C. E. COUGHLAN

C.E. Coughlan’s work has been published in Geist, Grain and the anthology Emerge. The Wigmaker, her collection of short stories was published in 2007 by Smart Cookie Publishing. Her piece, "Once," was a runner-up in the 1st Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.


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