I first met him when we were high school freshman. I liked the coltish limbyness of him, his pretend exasperation with the things I said. I knew he liked me too.
A decade later he called me because his mother was dying. He took me to lunch. I wondered if he could tell I still felt the same.
He asked me to visit so I brought a photo of him and me from high school to show his mother, proof I had the right to be there. She smiled from where she lay and said, “You’ve always been a good friend to him.” Even at that moment I wished for more.
I next saw him at the funeral, several hundred people there to honor her life. His brothers and sisters quaking in the pews, the father sitting off to the side by himself, looking like he was filled inside only with air. How those tall brothers carried their mother’s body in its box on their shoulders, stepping carefully, trying not to fold under the weight.
Later, on the train back to the city by myself, I kept thinking about my friend’s funeral suit; the stain on it I saw when he waved me goodbye. I knew we wouldn’t see each other again.
Ronit Feinglass Plank
Ronit’s work has appeared in The American Literary Review, Salon, Best New Writing 2015, Proximity, and The Iowa Review (runner up, The 2013 Iowa Review Award for Fiction), among others. She earned her MFA in nonfiction at Pacific University and is currently working on a memoir. More about her and links to her work are at www.ronitfeinglassplank.com.
Tell us about your scar. Does it hurt?
Only when I smile.
I suppose it has a story?
Yes, but not a very interesting one. I have another.
No. Another story. Would you like to hear it?
Please. Our readers would be most interested.
I was nine. There had been an accident.
An accident? Nothing serious, I hope?
A garbage truck had overturned on Bruckner Boulevard, and they were re-routing the traffic through the South Bronx. It was quite a torrid Sunday morning in July.
Not a good morning for garbage, I dare say.
No. I was seated half-naked on a curbstone picking through the bottle glass for diamonds and sharpening my popsicle stick into a defensive weapon, when a funeral procession came by—a line of stretch-limos with Connecticut license plates. One of them pulled over to the curb, the rear window went down, and a lady, a lovely lady in a black veil, asked me if I could give them directions to Woodlawn.
She was lost.
Yes, and did I think I could show her the way out of the South Bronx—and to Woodlawn Cemetery.
And could you?
I had given it a great deal of thought. She invited me to get into the back seat with her and give directions to the chauffeur.
I liked riding in that limousine. I didn’t want to leave.
Of course you didn’t.
It had air-conditioning. And a rather distinctive plum-plush interior. She let me out at the southeast corner of Jerome Avenue and West Gun Hill Road. In front of the Santa Maria bodega.
Such a sense of direction.
She thanked me for getting her there so quickly. She gave me an orange. And the Sports section to her Sunday New York Times.
For a very deserving little boy. You’ve grown since then.
“When I was a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
1 Corinthians 13. Ol’ Saul certainly knew his frijoles.
I believe that was Paul. The apostle. He experienced a conversion.
He did. Saul to Paul. Presto change-o.
His frijoles. Very good. Do you mind if I use that?
Be my guest.
To your lovely lost lady. Wherever she is.
To all my lost ladies.
Of course. Does that include me? We really must take a raincheck for dinner. I could always use an extra man.
I’d like that. If I ever get out of here.
Charles Leipart was a finalist for the 2017 Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize for What Wolfman Knew, Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival; What Wolfman Knew is published in the September 2017 issue of the Jabberwock Review; Tea with the Tin Man, a flash fiction, is published in the quarterly issue 82 of Burningword Literary Journal, July 2017. Frank & Mia & Me, a flash fiction, is published in issue 7 of Panoply Literary Zine. Charles is a graduate of Northwestern University, a former fellow of the Edward Albee Foundation and a member of the Dramatists Guild. He lives and writes in New York City.
The Last Time I Talked to My Mom
She’d flown to Florida just to die, not that slow-
motion movie crammed with insights and coming-
to-terms, me on the edge of the plains hearing how
one brother and his wife went bedside, sang their
newest version of psalm twenty-three, another one
praying sweet Jesus how can I compete with that,
so you can see why she flew away.
She’d hired a cab to the hospital, told them, it being
the South, she was fixing to die, told me these doctors
they’re whispering cancer as if I can’t read the seven
signs, and they want to try chemo, as if that’s going
to happen, and anyway it was good to hear but I’m
going now and she just let the phone drop, so I
listened to her breathe for a while.
They called soon enough, saying it was a stroke –
that stubborn old lady, dying as she pleased.
Sometimes, She Says
It was my kid asking me and more than once,
so after she was killed, I decided just to quit,
though it was hard, having smoked for years,
and I loved it, I did, maybe out on the porch
a fall afternoon, someone burning leaves two
streets over, a high hint in the cool air, early
moon above the hills, or after sex sometimes,
like in the movies, where you’re the heroine
if not in this story, then another, wondering
how it might go, this whatever seems to be
happening here – cigarette moments to
ornament a tree with a little history, but
my daughter asks again and there’s a crash
that makes her brain swell into a thunderhead
soaking up ocean till it rains itself away, so I
tell myself, just stop, each time you choose
not to is a kind of prayer, and keeping that
it’s like lighting candles in a church, so
maybe it counts – only, sometimes on a street
a match will flare as another’s smoke whispers
of distant laughter, and yes envy and still the
anger over everything that’s lost, and is it lust
or deadly greed infiltrating my breath – this
banished pleasure, this near occasion of sin?
George Perreault is from Reno, Nevada, and his most recent collection, Bodark County, features poems in the voices of characters living on the Llano Estacado. He has received awards from the Nevada Arts Council and the Washington Poets Association and has served as a visiting writer in New Mexico, Montana, and Utah. His poems have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and selected for fourteen anthologies and dozens of magazines.