Seedling, Literary Mama

Jacob is sitting in the sand busily burying his toes. Near him, on a royal blue velour blanket, his mother is filing her nails and squinting at the sand-filled pages of a thick paperback book. Jacob has asked her to buy him one of the ice cream bars with a chocolate Mickey Mouse face, but she has said, later, wait till after lunch. It is almost noon, she has told him. He knows about noon from Miss Rose at nursery school. She has explained that noon is in the middle of the day, though he does not understand where a middle is. His mother has told him a middle is somewhere near his belly button, which she sometimes kisses, making funny sucky sounds. He whispers "middle" over and over, till it sounds strange, like "little." Little is what his father calls him. Whenever Jacob wants to stay up late, or drink from his father's coffee cup, his father says, "Not yet, Jacob. You are too little…." 

Old Spice, Cosmopolitan

The letter came for Jessie one rainy Saturday, on her way out. She was headed to the dry cleaner's, the bank, and the food emporium, although it was the kind of day when she'd have preferred to watch old movies on TV, pay the bills, or reread Jane Eyre.

The letter was buried beneath a renewal notice from the New Yorker, a Lord & Taylor black-and-white sale catalog, a bill from American Express, the Metropolitan Museum calendar, and a thank you note from a pair of just-married friends. The handwriting on the letter was familiar -- the curlicues and flourishes of an architect's Rapidograph pen, the unevenly sized letters.

"Anything interesting?" Michael asked impatiently. He was dressed too warmly and eager to leave.

"The usual," she said absently, tucking the letter into her purse very carefully. She would wait for the right moment to read it, away from Michael….

Sir Lancelot and Sarah Heartburn, Cosmopolitan

"When I was a little kid I used to count policemen in the Lincoln Tunnel. Now I count dead animals on the highway," Jennifer said.

"lt's a sign of the times," Henry answered, watching the green Triumph ahead of them weave through the Friday afternoon traffic on the Taconic Parkway. "I'd keep the dead animal remarks to a minimum, considering Emily's talent for taking in strays. Didn't you tell me she's raising chickens?"

"Yeah, chickens, and any stray hedgehog that crawls in her path."

"C'mon, knock it off. I think the weekend will really be okay."
Jennifer doubted it. In fact, she'd put off this weekend with Max and Emily for several weeks already….

The Things We Keep, Onomatopoeia Magazine

A week after their father Gene's funeral, Barbara and Aggie Harrell and their cousin Emma went to clean out his apartment. Barbara had not been there since a disastrous dinner with her father and his second wife Pauline three years earlier. The building had seemed elegant, but now one of the art deco letters over the awning was missing, and the chandeliered lobby smelled of last week's lamb stew. Barbara had a key that Gene's neighbor, Mrs. Milner, had pressed on her at the funeral. Her eyes had been an ugly red. "I can't go back in there, Ms. Harrell," she'd said, sounding apologetic. She was the one who had found him….

Joy, Writers’ Bloc: Rutgers

Eleanor Lasky’s daughter Allison thought she was being raised in a boarding house. Their house was always filled with company, and her mother kept the cellar freezer stuffed with roasts and barrels of coffee ice cream that Allison’s father Byron bought wholesale. They lived in a house that was once an inn, in an unfashionable Boston suburb….

Higher Education, Sotto Voce

Summer hadn’t been my college roommate for more than an hour before she told me she’d been voted most popular girl in her high school class. She let it slip casually as we unpacked our trunks in the cinder-block cubicle we’d been assigned. I’d arrived first. My mother insisted on spraying the shelves with Lysol. I watched in helpless fury as she lined the garbage can with contact paper and made the narrow cot up with new and hideous designer sheets I planned to lose in the laundry faster than I intended to shed my virginity. 

“There,” she said. “Isn’t that perky?”

“Terminally so,” I muttered, just as a girl with lank blond hair backed into the room holding one end of a trunk. A curly head appeared at the other end of the trunk, connected to a boy Summer breezily introduced.

“Honey, you left the car unlocked,” she said. He trotted out, never to be seen again.

“Your boyfriend?” my mother said.

“Mom,” I said, humiliated but curious.

“Oh, no, I’m too young to get serious,” Summer said. She’d obviously been around parents. Mine fully expected I’d be sent home mid-semester, embalmed in beer, needles hanging out of my arm, illegitimate grandchild in tow. The night before, Dad had come to tuck me in and deliver his Polonius speech. He’d perched uncomfortably on the edge of the bed; words failed him. “Man’s not made of wood,” he’d finally said….