THE PASSENGER DOOR IS OPEN, TILTED AWKWARDLY TOWARDS THE DRIVEWAY'S PAVEMENT. A missile descending, it is a nose dive off course. As he climbs in, knees bent, a ripple in conformity, she is rapid staccato. "I read a poem once about a Moth-Man."
"That was me a long time ago. When I was young and not so fat," she jiggles the flaccid skin around her mouth in a mirthless dance. He knows the routine. He opens his script:
"No Mom, you're HOT, all my friends say so."
He wonders when he stopped loving her, and smiles as she waits in vain for compliments never uttered. Even the friends were invented for convenience's sake. He stares hard at his dingy hi-tops, receding deeper into the burnt orange shag carpeting .
He knows he is the reason she didn't go to college, why her hips are flabby, why her ass is fat. He knows she longs to tell him about hating, but only tells him how much he resembles his father, a name on checks, birthday and Christmas presents. There were invariably footballs, hockey sticks, and karate lessons. Once-deep in opiate's honesty-she threw a literature class' poetry book at him and said, "Your father left us 'cause you're a fag, you know what that is, don't you? Don't you?"
She sent those watching, who weren't there home as she rambled about the pill being a placebo. He left her an inebriated cobra in the faux leather arm chair, where she pissed herself. He enjoyed telling his school counselor and his grandparents, her mother and father; it was decided "best" that he remain with them. Only, he left out the small issue, the element of truth that could not survive scrutiny.
Later, he took to capturing butterflies in jars, fireflies encased in containers without air holes. Soon, he would experiment with carbon dioxide. He picked up his mother's lighter and stared transfixed into the burst of scarlet. Further, deeper, the blue flame beckoned, communicating to him, in lilting hypnotic tones, crooning commands in the only voice he's ever known and trusted, his own.
"You should read more Aaron," momentarily draped in motherly skins, exhaling expert Marlboro red rings, she welds smoke to words in thick, humid silence.
He says nothing, as he traps a thread of carpeting between his sneakers and tugs.
At the first light they encounter. She turns to him, "I'm going to meetings again ."
It is at the same time, a sentence and a plea from a tired place. A phrase that floats through him leaving the smallest of scars before it combusts on the mostly barren plains they pass. Here and there, patches of red thirst yield to the inevitable rust. He looks at his watch as she shifts gears.
"What do you want McDonalds... pizza?" she asks.
He shrugs palms up. "Whatever. Wherever."
"McDonalds, then," she says brightly then turns sharply into the drive-through. Her hands shake as she draws crumpled singles from her wallet.
There are rhythms, directions; maps strictly adhered to on these visits. Too late he realizes he didn't answer quickly enough and sweat is concentrated about her forehead. All this forced gaiety is panic turned inside out. Her eyeliner is running like black lightning down her cheek and pity surfaces within him, from a box, within a box, within a fortress, within this secret boy.
She fills the gaps, the awkward pauses with more conversations between herself and herself. It seems to him there is a clock, a watch, something ticking he cannot name that pulsates around, about and within them.
At four, the afternoon visit is over. His grandmother, her mother, stares disapprovingly through the window as his mother hugs this boy-man frame in a fierce gesture of love and ownership. Love as she knows it.
He exhales and estimates he has a couple of hours as he swats absently at a circling moth and adds the first of the large stack of dusty playboy magazines his father sent him, while carefully lighting the pilot light in the ancient gas oven .
Numb and knowing-before the clock strikes sober-she will mourn him in minutes, in her soft hard way. The path to enlightenment shines, a pharmaceutical sun open 24 hours. He knows she will hesitate as she clutches anticipated warmth:love as she knows it, cloaked in recycled amour . He is a wound to blink away in rapid flutters, while the promise of oblivion's flight sings from the heart of paper wings; love as he knows it, the Moth-Man prepares to feast on the flames.
Sandy Olson Hill with her friend, "honey," and fellow poet, Walter who recently passed away.
Sandra (Sandy) Olson Hill was born in Connecticut, and has lived in Florida for over 30 years. Although she innately knew she wanted to write since whispering stories into her sister's ears years before she could count, she ended up getting married young, raising a daughter and then beginning college in 1987. Hill feels Florida is lax in promoting Expressive Arts and wants to attend Berkeley, in California after graduating from Rollins College. She worked for The Jewish Heritage Newspaper as a Journalist and photographer and was included with several others in putting together VSAarts Putting Creativity to Work. She is honored to have her latest Short Story "The Moth-Man" published in Our Stories.
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