The Mother Is Often Gone
The mother has started wearing the grandmother's old clothes.
See, she was the same height as me, but much wider, she'll say to the daughter, bunching the back of a plaid wool jacket, or maybe a mink coat. She wears the grandmother's blazers with shoulder pads and gold-braid detail to work, and has even gotten into the costume jewelry, like coral necklaces or rings with big, black stones. The mother and the grandmother had the same shoe size, too, so in the winter the mother goes around in some white fur boots with brass toes. In the springtime she starts appearing in some dirty cork sandals.
The mother and daughter will be in a car, riding to a outlet mall for new jeans, or sitting across from each other over warm turkey sandwiches when a cartain type of talk will start. The mother talks bad about the grandmother as she plays the straw in her drink and the daughter sits up straight.
She used to write checks for five dollars instead of using cash, how stupid was that? the mother says. And she always had to be at the church, picking up trash in the parking lot. Once, she cleaned the pews with furniture polish, remember? She and the daughter see each other about once a month because they live close The daughter reminds her mother of all of the good parts about the grandmother, who died unexpectedly. She fell to the floor in front of her closet early one morning, had been ready to mow the lawn.
One day, the two sit at a tiny table and try not to spill coffee. I have a surprise for you, the mother says, and gives the daughter a heavy paper sack. The mother is wearing a baggy blouse with a ruffled collar and putty-colored pants. The mother says she will be gone for the weekend to a small, dwindling town, visiting her father, the widower. He keeps saying he wants to kill himself and booked a trip to Borneo. When she gets home, the daughter empties the bag on her bed. It is nothing but stretched-out sports bras in colors like hot pink and purple and thin nightgowns. She thinks abou wearing them, tries them on.
Louise Krug is a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at the University of Kansas. She has been published in Juked, metazen, and elimae, among others. She has a memoir coming out by Black Balloon Publishing in spring 2011.