Letting Life Lead
The card-table desk wobbled.
“Mimsy, you idiot.” Claire mumbled at the cat, peeling a stuck test from her forehead. The tabby had been chattering at pigeons and concussed itself on the window, waking Claire on the rebound.
After entering final grades for English Comp 101, she had pressed her face onto the cool papers for a minute in the wee hours. Now, the sun rose high, Paul had left for work, and the celebratory fireball rum and Coke lay untouched in a Slurpee cup. Her man knew better than to wake her and had left a post-it kiss on the lamp.
“Ninety-nine messages? What!?” Claire scrolled through her phone and rammed her shoulder into the kitchen doorway. “That’s it. No more. I’m done.”
Heedless of the flip-flop mismatched with a fluffy slipper, her best suit jacket thrown over a hausfrau t-shirt, and sweatpants, Claire drove across town. Her mother’s condo was nestled in a middle-income suburb. She bypassed the courtesy buzz-in, keyed herself through, and ignored the turtle-speed elevator. By the time she reached the sixth floor, taking stairs two and three at a time, she’d run through a hundred ways to kill her mother.
“Mom!” Claire stomped through the Pottery Barn rooms. Dust bunnies dared not tread in the darkest corner. “Mom!”
“What’s the matter with you? I was about to call security!” Amanda Senna patted her chest feigning a fainting spell. “Did you leave the house like that?”
“Did I lea–” Claire rubbed her cheeks and puffed a steadying breath. “Mom, you started another flame-war on my wall. You even got Chuck riled enough to comment, and all he ever does is like and share.”
Amanda angled-up her nose and busied herself with dusting pristine surfaces. “What you said was…was ungrateful and insulting. I raised you better.”
“It was a joke about the shell guest soaps in the bathroom!”
“What’s funny about having nice things?”
“All I said was that the soap is older than I am.”
“So? How is it shameful to take care of what I have?”
Claire wiped the curses from her mouth then pressed her palms to her eyes. “I didn’t say that. I didn’t even mention that you never invite over guests.” She waved the phone. “Right here. All your words; not mine.”
Amanda stepped carefully over vacuum lines and fluffed a pillow. “It’s rude. You’ve always been rude.”
“Mom, it’s soap. It’s not personal.”
“You’re a mess. Do you let Paul see you like this?”
“See, that is personal.” Claire swiped, tapped, and blocked her mother from her wall. For added sanity, she restricted access to cat posts. “And Paul held my hair while I puked after some off Clams Casino. This is a step up. And don’t change the subject.”
Amanda pishawed then rattled off her usual two-minute unintelligible lecture.
“I know what you’re saying; I’ve got an app.” Claire jumped out of the way of a carpet sweeper Amanda used to chase her into the kitchen. “You have to stop overreacting. Not everything is a slight”
A tirade of phrases, punctuated with gestures, was the reply.
“What? I’m the nice one! Who visits you most? Who got you on the computer when everyone else said, ‘hell to the no, are you crazy’?” Claire stole a muffin and apple tart from the kitchen for her troubles. “I’ll even do you a favor and prove it.”
She found the computer in the den and changed the background wallpaper with Amanda watching over and smacking Claire’s shoulder.
“What are you doing? I like that!”
“Mom, you’ve got to listen. What you have here is not palm trees.” Claire explained through cheeks full of pastry. “Remember ten years ago? Those earrings you bought because you thought they were orchids? It’s like that.”
“Don’t be silly, those are–Oh!” Amanda pressed her hands to her face then crossed herself.
Claire kissed her mother’s cheek. “Just think, you dodged a bullet because you don’t have guests over. No one saw the floating penises.”
“Do you really want me to use another word? I have lots.”
The old woman threw her hands up; her tethered reading glasses fell to her chest. “Tea? I have your favorite.”
“Okay, promise no comments about my hair, weight, or outfit.”
“Child, if I did that, I’d be a liar.”
“No more.” The hamster wheel turned and Claire threw back her head. “I’m done. Bring on the tea.”
Later, at home there would be rum.
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