Identical, page 6
he craves more. But tonight
he’ll have to play the good (sober)
husband and devoted father.
As I slip into a Vera Wang blouse,
Tommy Hilfiger jeans, I can hear
Mom’s well-staged entrance.
Hello, Raymond. You look well.
The election is a few precious
weeks away. Before the final charge,
Mom needs to make her constituency
believe she actually cares about family.
Her own family is the best place to start.
They’re setting up the cameras.
Being fairly cute and very well
dressed, we make a damn fine photo
op, too. Especially just as the sun
starts to sink behind our designer home.
Reporters and news crews have
gathered on the front lawn.
Mom herds us outside.
Don’t forget to smile.
Yeah, Mom. Like what else would
we do? Stick out our tongues?
Flip them off? Drop our pants, bend
over, and tell them just what to kiss?
The thought makes me smile. Not only
that, but the grin stretches lobe to lobe.
Poor Mom only knows I’m smiling.
She smiles too. That’s my girl.
Daddy Isn’t Running
This time round, but he has before
and is intimately aware of campaign
protocol. Exactly as might be expected,
he drapes an arm (a ravenous arm, but
no one but his closest family members
knows that) around Mom’s shoulder.
She stiffens, and her smile slips ever so
slightly, but I’m the only one who notices.
And she doesn’t dare shrug him off.
Thank you all for coming, she says.
It’s good to be home with my family.
The campaign trail is a lonely one.
I wonder just how lonely. I wonder
if she’s getting a little on the side.
Probably not. I can’t imagine her
actually getting close enough to
someone—anyone—to invite them
into her bed, let alone her pants.
I watch her, the ultimate politician,
working the press like she was born
for it. I’ll take questions now.
…universal health care
…right to choose
Mom is prepared,
knows every answer
by heart, could
recite them in
her sleep, in fact.
Cool under pressure,
She’s twelve for twelve.
missteps that might
make dirty TV spots.
she words her responses
Some Thirtyish Ditz
Tosses her long, dark-rooted
platinum hair. In a cheap tweed suit,
with a skirt much too short
to compliment the blocky legs
poking out from under it,
she clears her throat, squeaks,
What about judicial reform?
How do you feel about judges
who break the same laws
they are sworn to uphold?
All eyes latch onto Daddy,
whose face is the color of raw
cotton. His own eyes scream
panic, but the subtle shake of my
head reassures, “Nope, not a word.”
Mom remains the stoic politician.
I’m sure such a thing is a rare
occurrence. No judge I know
holds him or herself above
the law. It is sacrosanct.
Ms. Tree-Trunk Legs refuses
to be so easily satisfied. She
hems and haws, checking her
notes. Finally, just as the others
seem ready to pack up and leave,
she throws a bucket of verbal shit.
Isn’t it true that while under
the influence, your husband,
Judge Raymond Leland Gardella,
was involved in a fatal accident? And…
If she thinks she can possibly
go one-on-one with my mother
and come out on top, she really
should think again. Like a wolf
on a duck (with incredibly fat legs!),
Mom turns on the reporter.
Ray is the finest jurist I know.
He does not hold himself above
the law, but dispenses it with
knowledge and forthrightness.
Told you Mom had every
correct response right at her
fingertips. If there was ever
any doubt about where Kaeleigh
got her acting ability, this
afternoon smashed it to bits, and
Mom is not quite finished yet.
The incident to which you refer
was a great personal tragedy.
Should we apologize for not dying?
Frustrated, the brittle
blonde shakes her head,
ignoring the buzz
all around her.
What she still doesn’t
get, I’m betting,
is how connected
my parents are.
The others, still
buzzing like electric
lines in a storm,
My parents’ connections
reach well beyond
and some of those
connections might very
well disconnect one
mouthy young reporter
from her job.
Sound Bites Bitten
Mom actually cooks dinner
tonight, perhaps worried some
nosy journalist might peek
through the window.
Of course, it’s frozen lasagna
and bagged salad. But hey,
like we used to be, once
upon a time. If I close my
eyes, I can almost pretend
a normal family, gathered
round the table, discussing
stuff like plays and grades,
dinner-table topics like war
chests and fund-raisers. If
I keep my eyes closed, Mom is
not some cardboard cutout
in a lace apron. Eyes firmly
closed, Daddy is
for affection, perverted or
otherwise. Eyes squeezed
tight, Kaeleigh and I are
Having Mom Home
Makes things easier. Makes things
harder, like looking
through the window,
needing to see what’s on the other
side, but your eyes have to work
too hard to reach beyond the grime.
as hard as pretending I don’t care
if she leaves again. Almost as hard as
sitting around the dinner table
a cohesive family unit. A little
Damn little, which is
for the Gardella clan. What talk
there is, of course, is election talk.
I guess I should act like I’m
and, really, I’m not. I hope with
every ounce of hope I have left
that the voters snub her. No, I’m
for revenge. I’m starved for her
company and even more, for her
affection. I love her, and that’s
Actually, I’m Hungry
For more than Mom’s affection.
My body is screaming for food.
And tonight we get the
real deal (instead of
our usual fast
But any food is my
friend because it’s under
my control, unlike most of the
rest of my life. I eat when I’m sad.
I eat when I’m lonely. I eat when
I hurt so much inside, it’s
either eat or find an
easy way to die.
can’t eat to
is when Daddy’s around. No
daughter of mine will wear double-
digit clothes, he said once, and meant it.
Wonder what he thinks about Mom’s
new curves. She’s put on
a few pounds. All that
rich food on the
’em with five-star
dinners, high-dollar wine,
and aperitifs; ask ’em for a fistful
of dollars. Calorific politics at its best.
I happen to think Mom wears double
-digit designer clothes pretty
well. She is the portrait
of a beautiful,
curves or no.
What she doesn’t look
like is a girl, all narrow hips,
straight waist, and teacup breasts.
And if I have my way, I won’t either.
And Tonight Mom’s Home
I can eat what I want,
Daddy or no. After dinner
I help load the dishwasher,
more to be close to Mom
than anything. Every time
I brush against her, though,
she stiffens, like a wet sheet
in January wind. Not fair.
Why can’t she love me
like I love her? Does she
somehow blame me? I ask
simply, “What’s wrong?”
Mom keeps scrubbing
the stove, like it isn’t already
spotless. Finally she says,
Nothing’s wrong with me
that winning this election
won’t cure. It’s been a long,
hard campaign, and the polls
say it’s too close to call.
Nothing I didn’t know.
But there’s something
more. Something I can’t
quite put my finger on.
I mean, even for Mom, this
woman is unapproachable.
“Can I ask you something
without you getting mad?”
Scrub. Scrub. Scrub. Of
course. Scrub. Scrub. Scrub.
She’s gonna get mad for sure.
“Well, what if you don’t win?”
She stops scrubbing, fires
at my eyes with her own.
I can’t think like that, and
I don’t want you to either.
Do you think I could just
tuck my tail between my
legs, come home, and play
housewife? Never again!
So…what? If she wins, she’ll
spend most of her time in DC.
But what if she loses? Either
way, guess who else loses?
Mom Pours a Glass of Wine
A fine pinot noir, grown here
in the valley. I’ve come to appreciate
good red wine. Mom allows some
with dinner sometimes. And once
in a while, she allows it after dinner.
“May I have some more too?”
She slides the bottle across the table,
and I fill my glass to the brim.
Mom and I sip in silence for a while,
but eventually the building buzz
in my brain opens my mouth.
“Do you miss us when you’re gone?”
Now you might think “yes” would
pop out from between her lips,
quick as a jack-in-the-box wound
tight. No way. She tilts her head
slightly, as if to tip the right answer
into her mouth. The maneuver fails.
Suddenly, she doesn’t look like
a politician. She folds up, small,
a woman twice her age, beneath
the burdens she will forever carry.
I don’t blame her for not wanting
to be here. Who does?
We Empty Our Glasses
Mom opens another bottle,
pours for us both. I’m getting
drunk with my mother, and
neither of us can think of
a thing to say. Finally, she
says, I’d better go to bed.
“Sure, Mom. Me too.”
I go around the table,
give her a hug. “Love you.”
She turns, looks me in the eye.
Love you too. She pauses, stutters,
A…are you…all right?
Anger flares. I want to shout,
“Like you suddenly care?”
Want to cry, “Save me!”
Something acidy rises in my
throat. If I break down, say
those things and more, then what?
But she has already closed
herself again, snapped shut
like a heavy door.
“No,” I say simply. Wineglass
in hand, I start to leave, turn
to see her choke back a sob.
In the living room, the TV
is on, but Daddy has drunk
himself into oblivion.
Cool. I’ll be there soon
myself. The rest of the house
is dark, and I leave it that way.
I stumble up the hallway,
into my bedroom. Turn on
the little lamp beside my bed.
Think about calling Ian.
But it’s late, and it’s Friday
night. He’s asleep or out.
Out, Where I Should Be
Where any self-respecting
sixteen-year-old should be
on Friday night. Out,
with friends or, better yet,
a really fine guy, instead
of tying one on
with my marble-hearted
mother, no less. At least I
caught a couple of tears, which
me wondering if she ever
just breaks down or freaks
out. She used to freak out
before the accident. At least
then we knew she had feelings.
But that was before she came
completely drained of emotion.
I wonder if I would have liked
her when she was young, pretty,
Did she like herself then?
Before she had children?
Before she met Daddy?
I Called Mick
As soon as the whole house fell
quiet except for whiskey-fueled
snores. Sneaking out,
getting high. What better way
to spend Friday night? Especially
after too many hours stuck
listening to Mom’s political
bullshit. Aaagh! Save me.
I, for one, can’t wait until she
again. Hell, maybe she’ll be
gone by the time I get up in
the morning. I plan to do
in the way of self-medication.
Funny term for getting screwed up
to the point of passing out. I need
that messed up to get to sleep
at all tonight. I’m totally wound.
Besides, I want to feel
for more than what I can bring
to a campaign. A campaign
that only fills our lives with pain.
There’s a Party
Up on Figueroa. That’s a mountain
not too far from here, but far enough
so parents and cops rarely want
to take the drive, especially at night.
Even if they did, we have our favorite
party place, well off the main road,
and a mile or so back on a dirt track,
not something they’d happen upon.
Great place for hide-and-seek.
Great place for a kegger, too.
Other author's books:
- IdenticalPerfect - 02Crank - 01TricksGlass - 02Collateral
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