Baggage

“Excuse me, is that your bag?” she asked. “No,” I replied, “that’s my wife.” The woman’s face wrinkled in the familiar expression of disdain I have become accustomed to from that same said wife. The stranger scoffed and walked away muttering, “Jerk.” I guess most people cannot appreciate my humor. My wife can’t. I stared at the woman’s back and wanted to call after her, “Hey! Why don’t you mind your own business, you busy body!” I held my breath instead. I looked for my wife.

She had wandered off from the shopping bags to browse some antiques. She expected me to stand there and protect her purchases. It was just another example of how disconnected we had become. She didn’t notice when I was gone. I didn’t notice when she was gone. Yet we stay married. I think she hates me because I never gave her children. I think I hate her because she is chronically ill. Just another detail that makes me a jerk. You heard the lady.

This flea market is the one habitual activity we meet up for every weekend. She likes to shop and get bargains which she fills our house with and gives away as gifts whenever family comes to visit. They don’t come often. I think she is filling up our home as an external attempt to fill the space in her heart where she wanted her children to be. Too many trips in and out of the hospital. Too little energy to chase a toddler.

I work too much to have been any help to her. I thought more money would make her happy. I thought taking care of her frail body so she never had to work would make her happy. I thought buying her all this crap would make her happy. All it has done is make me old and bitter.

If she left me to find another man because I’ve turned into such a jerk, I would likely never find another companion. Because I am such a jerk. And she is an old bag, stuffed with crap she doesn’t need but won’t let go of.

Maybe that’s why we stay married.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, July 2008

Corner Café

I

It was a small, tickling idea in the back of her mind. It was a dream so close to her heart she never noticed it clinging there. It just moved with her through the day, through the years of working in various restaurants. She’d put in her time until she could no longer stand the management, then move on to another place. She was making money. She was trading a service, relaxation to others for their dollars, a paid ‘mother’ to businessmen or first dates or families with a bunch of kids needing a break.


II

The green leatherette booths that lined the café had thousands of people occupy them over the years, thousands of conversations about misinformed current affairs, what homework was due tomorrow, which bitch he was fucking now. Thousands of people from every station of life. Donny Osmond had even eaten here once, a little reflected glory, a story, something to talk about when the conversation about the weather was exhausted and the people didn’t enjoy enough of the same television programs to share their exasperation over the most recent plot developments.


Continue reading “Corner Café”

Red Letter Day

On a dark night late in the year, you drove thirty minutes to a post office on the southern edge of downtown, to mail a single letter to someone you will not remember twenty years later. But anyway, it was more to get away, to send some feathers in a red envelope, some feathers from the wings of your heart which longed to fly out from this empty low place, to find a home where it was wanted and needed and valued. You no longer wanted to feel as though there was an impatient curmudgeon named Time waiting by the front door in a worn floral armchair asking, “Oh, you’re still here?”

That is why it did not matter to you that the drive was an hour round trip, to mail a single a letter, to whom you will never remember. It was important. It must have been a boy who you hoped would save you. No one noticed if you were gone for long periods and for long periods, years in fact, you wanted to be gone. Continue reading “Red Letter Day”

Thanksgiving

Karen pulled up to the shoddy beige apartment complex after school on Wednesday afternoon. Pete was released early for the Thanksgiving holiday and he was excited to see his dad. Tim, Pete’s father, had insisted on hosting dinner that year. In the past it had been his favorite holiday, the one day out of the year that he and his brother William got together and prepared the meal for the whole family. That was before Will got shot.

When Tim answered the door Pete jumped into his arms and hugged him. Karen could see the disheveled mess Tim’s apartment had degraded into- scattered papers and beer cans, the trash overflowing, and a stack of pizza boxes in the corner of the living room. Rufus the cat was eating meat off of a chicken bone on a plate that had been left on the floor. As long as the rent was paid the apartment managers left Tim alone. This had not been easy once he lost his job. Pete ran past Tim, threw his overnight bag on the couch, and slid on his knees in front of the TV to the video game console. Karen allowed Tim to kiss her cheek and went to the kitchen to check on the turkey. “Just a second Pete,” said Tim. Continue reading “Thanksgiving”

California, ND 58010

The doors here are on barns that contain farm equipment or rusty cars or cattle. They are not Spanish style doors on homes with manicured lawns that face the ocean. The mess here is apparent but no one feels the need to hide it.

There are steep hills, too steep than should be built on due to the risk of landslide but rich people build here anyway. They can afford the reinforcements that the homes require and require the reinforcement that a beautiful home with a steep staircase down to a private beach provides. You can swim naked here and if anyone should speed by in a boat, it provides an opportunity for your wife to show off her expensive breasts. It never ices over but sometimes the fog rolls in so thick you cannot see the bottom of the stairs that are suddenly very slick. Those are the times your teenage daughter slips down there to make love to your golf buddy’s second son, the one without the ambition. Continue reading “California, ND 58010”

In Thanksgiving

My dad is great. We did nothing but watch football all day today. Sometimes, my dad will sit all day and play video games with me. He’s been off work for a while on account of him being sick. He cries a lot at night when he stares at the pictures. He doesn’t think I can hear but I hear a lot on the couch. I pretend I’m scared and knock on his door, “Hey dad, can I sleep with you tonight?”

My mom is great. She came and ate dinner with me and dad- just the three of us like we were all living together again. She even sat for a while reading a book so dad and I could watch the football games. That was until she took me back home. I begged her for me to stay but I have to do this stupid homework. They actually assigned us readings and an essay ‘What I did for the Thanksgiving holiday’- can you believe that? Continue reading “In Thanksgiving”

Hunter Green

My father hunted with my uncle. It’s all they ever talked about really. That and fishing and football. When I was younger, before the divorce, I was often forced to sit at the dinner table until I finished every last bite of the game my father had shot and brought home for dinner. “Why can’t I just have a bologna sandwich?” I would ask. I was sick of spitting out the shot. “Hunter Bartholomew Green!” my mother would say in exasperation with a nervous glance at my father. Then he would give me the lecture about the importance of providing for one’s family and how there was a long tradition of hunting in our family that I needed to respect and how years ago a gun meant having meat on the table and freedom from starvation. My uncle just smirked. Continue reading “Hunter Green”