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Friday Night photo

She came in the door like she’d lived here for years, though this was the first time she was seeing my new place. My old mom smoked a lot; I’d lost her to lung cancer a year before.

“Well? Whaddya think?” I said. I folded my arms and gave her a lift of my eyebrows. She stood real close, gawked at my new gray button-down that hid my gut. She inspected me like I was a chicken on manager’s special.

She took off her heavy fake fur coat and placed it on my new white Ikea chair in the corner. She was wearing that old flowery housecoat again, the one with faded pink and yellow flowers, and her hair was still in curlers. I loved that she was so comfortable anywhere.

Her black sturdy shoes scuffed my kitchen floor, but that was okay. She had rights. I followed her in. She opened the fridge and made a scrunched-up face. “Got any tonic in here, Ralph?”

“It’s Jim,” I said. She messed up my name a lot. Part of the business, I guess. “Yes, I got Orange Crush, just like you like.” Even my fridge was new, white. I was glad she didn’t notice the peacock-colored vase on top. It’s where I kept my old ma’s ashes. I didn’t want her to ask any questions. I like to keep things separate.

She grabbed a can and took a seat at my new high-top table with stools. “Too tall,” she said. She made a face and pressed her fingers down on the wood until her knuckles were white, as if she was doing some kind of test. She knocked on it.

“Do you want to go to the living room, or . . .?”

“Nope.” She cracked open the Crush and looked out over the rooftops of the industrial buildings.

Just then, a light snow started to fall. This is very Brooklyn, I thought. We both looked at the snowy scene for a while, watching the stuff slowly cover up all the dirt and all the metal in the neighborhood, everything that made me anxious. I felt chills, like everything had been leading to this. I could imagine whole pasts—mother, son, snow, window.     

“Jim. What godforsaken place do you work at again?”

“The new Target!”

I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten. I ran into the spare room and pulled the new package of slippers out of the Target bag.

Her eyes lit up a little at the sight of them. I remembered from her profile way back when that she likes the furry kind, with a back about an inch high, real specific. They were the color of plastic flamingoes.

Her face changed. It grew brighter and her eyes lit up like disco balls shining bright in a closet.

“Thank you, son,” she said. “How did you know?”

She stepped off the stool to close in for a hug, something my ma would never do. I recoiled and bumped up against the fridge, knocking over the vase and sending it crashing. The floor was covered in exploded peacock and Ma. She was all over the goddamned place. 

“Oh, son.”

“Jesus, please leave.”

“I’m so sorry, Jim.”

I knelt down on the floor but couldn’t pick anything up. “Get the hell out. Now. Please. Don’t come back. Don’t ever come back. Don’t don’t don’t.”

The door closed. I lay down and rolled around until I was good and covered in blood and ash.

 

image: Aaron Burch


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