Fiction & Foibles came on the scene in June, and they are quickly becoming known for their unique style — Wendy’s delicious art on distinctive brown paper, and the often surprising, sometimes heart-stopping delights of Rory’s writing. They have graciously accepted a story of mine!
I was inspired by one of Wendy’s pictures that didn’t have its own story yet. Its title is, “Mother, You’re Over Reacting” and I’ve shared it with you above.
Note: Fiction & Foibles doesn’t seem to exist anymore so I’ve included the story here below. Let me know what you think.
Mother, You’re Over Reacting
“Mother, you’re over reacting.”
“Jen, I just hate to see you smoking again. I only asked if there was any way I could help.”
“You can. Just stop.”
“I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to …”
Lily could tell this wasn’t the day to tell her daughter something important. She had hoped this would be a good one, with that smooth enjoyable kind of conversation they shared as often as they did those moments of mutual aggravation. She looked away from Jenny to the neat, colorful boxes of teas set up on the shelves of the café, across the room to the baristas hustling dutifully in the distance, and to the few other customers at tables having their own conversations with tablemates, or their laptops. She decided to wait for Jenny to set another tone. And hoped that this in itself, wouldn’t make her daughter more touchy.
“Mom, stop sulking.”
“Honey, I wasn’t sulking.” This seemed insufficient, as if it could unwittingly set up more bad feeling, so Lily added, “I was trying to be quiet for a minute and think of something interesting to say on another subject.”
There was a moment of conversational silence, filled with sips of their own cold beverages, the distant whir of the cappuccino frother, and a hesitant sigh from Jenny.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I know that I could be a little nicer when I tell you to back off. I know we’ve talked about this before, and I know you only say this stuff because you care. And I know that if you were just a friend, this stuff would roll off my back.” Jenny heaved a longer, heavier sigh. “I’m trying, okay?”
Lily nodded. “Thanks for the apology.” She wondered when they could meet again. She had to tell her soon, and it shouldn’t be over the phone.
“So, Mom, tell me what’s going on with you.”
Lily hoped her surprise at her daughter’s deliberate calmness didn’t show. It warmed her heart, as well as gave her the opening she needed. “Well, um, I do have something to tell you.”
Jenny grasped her glass with both hands and said, “Shoot.”
“Okay. Well, you know my fiftieth birthday is coming up.”
“Yeah, and now that Gary and I are through, you’re thinking I could spend it with you.”
“No, I don’t expect you to spend the whole day with me. You’ve got your work and everything so whatever time we spend is fine … wait … you and Gary are still broken up?”
“Of course, we are. Why would you think I’d go back to him after what he did?”
“Well, you’ve changed your mind about things before.” Lily had never liked Gary, but she was smart enough not to tell Jenny what she really thought. Things could change in a nanosecond.
“Wait — didn’t I tell you what he did?”
“No, Honey, you didn’t.”
“That jerk — that asshole took me to Jackson’s, you know that coffee shop in my neighborhood? Where I go ALL the time, or used to, until he pulled — uhh! He made me so mad I could just … Anyway, I think we’re standing in line, but it turns out we’re not, and he points over to this chick behind the counter with this long red hair, like a fucking Botticelli — only in size two jeans — and he says, ‘I’m going out with her.’ I say, ‘Wh-What?’ instead of belting him, and he says, ‘We have to break up, because I’m going out with her. I think I’m in love.’ ” Jenny stops to take a breath while her mother’s mouth hangs open. “I don’t know why I didn’t slap him. I didn’t tell you any of this?”
“No.” Lily said as her mouth closed.
Jenny looked at her mother, barely noticing the glint in her eyes, and she continued, “I hate him. That was a mean thing to do and a mean way to do it — especially after we talked about moving in together. And I thought he loved me.”
“Are you okay, Honey?”
“Yeah, I’m fine now. I just hate him. And I can never go back into my neighborhood coffee shop. My favorite one. That rat bastard.”
“Well,” Lily began, smiling, her excitement now visible to her daughter, “this sort of makes it easier. You see, and I know this is going to be a lot for you, but just bear with me because, you know, this is just how it is — like things with you and Gary. Okay this is what I need to tell you: In my family, the women change on the day after our fiftieth birthday …”
“No, no, not that. We get bigger for a while, and much taller and, uh, scaly — but for only a day.” Jenny looked askance at her mother as she went on. “You see, all through time, the women in the family have changed this way. You’ll have wings, too, but just for the day. The thing is, we get very hungry and we have to eat someone, but because we know it will happen, we can choose. You pick someone evil — the more evil the better — wait, I wonder why my Great Aunt Fiala didn’t eat Hitler? Oh, wait, she was in Czechoslovakia and he was probably too far away … and he was so well protected, she might not have been able to get at him …” Lily said this part while pointing to nothing in particular, pointing just to make the point, “… anyway you have to stay kinda close to home so you can get there in time to change back. It only happens once a year, the day after your birthday, once you get to fifty, but you get the year in between to find someone else in the newspaper or whatever, because you have to be sure — you have to do your research. But anyway, I’m so lucky this time because that asshole, Gary, he can’t go around hurting my daughter that way. He deserves it.” Lily lifted her purse off the chair next to her and took a pen and pad out of it. Clicking the pen, she turned to Jenny, “What’s his address, dear?”
Jenny stared hard at her mother while the rapid tapping of her glass against the table, as her hands trembled, attracted the notice of café customers close by.