December 1, 2014 by The Citron Review
My son has a play date today with a boy named Abraham. This means Abraham’s parents, Michael and Barb, will be interviewing me. Parents always need to determine if their kid will be kidnapped, dismembered, or have words like “douche bag” added to their child’s vocabulary as a result of hanging out with someone else’s kid.
Abraham’s mom and dad are still married. They throw the occasional wine party with their neighbors in their foyer, which is decorated with busted historic farm tools. The neighbor’s children, like Abraham, are named after dead presidents or obscure musical notes. I chose to name my son after a dead rock star. Despite our social and economic differences, I am willing to bet that my college degree will bypass their initial fears. Michael and Barb will take notice of my alma mater and tell their neighbors over a primordial bottle of Pinot Noir: She is a Single Mom, but she is educated. Bet your ass, Mike and Barb. I am credible, smart enough to know about GMO’s while label hunting boxed Mac and Cheese for artificial ingredients like riboflavin that will liquefy Abraham’s gastrointestinal tract. While Barb nibbles on sliced cheese sweating on my coffee table, Michael and I will discuss the diverse hardships of undergrad and grad schools-segue into how we both wound up at the Lollapalooza concert (the one without Jane’s Addiction) by some shoestring twist of fate and laugh, caught up in our own reveries, realizing how adulthood has killed our teen spirits.
I want Michael and Barb to walk into my house and overlook the mismatched thrift store furniture. My throw blankets, draped like butter cream over the love seat, hide the imperfections in the wood and tired fabric. I question whether or not to take down my Klimt painting before their arrival. She is a naked woman-ethereal and mesmerizing-but she is flashing her blimp-sized breast which takes up a quarter of the painting. When is a breast artistic enough to still be considered a breast and not a boob? Fun bag? She may be too porno.
The next step will involve ushering Michael and Barb through my hallway, living room, and kitchen, assuming my role as tour guide. See all my books? See how clean my house is? No crack pipes or needles here, folks. This house is a careful collaboration of yard sale scavenger hunts and thrift store discounts-discarded items no longer wanted. I give them a home again, place them in tiny rooms like doll furniture, playing out scenes and rearranging them. Should Michael and Barb ask where I work, I will politely respond that I wear many hats. Truth be told, I am not sure I want to tell them about the posh houses I clean as a maid. How I scrape other people’s crusted piss off toilet rims. That while changing bed sheets, to my horror, the amount of pubic hair that a person sheds can be found in even the highest thread counts, like tiny stubborn fishhooks. There are ghosts that live within the walls I clean. I see the resident monsters hidden under the beds, in closets, behind couches. I scrub them, dust away the layers of age, or pretend that I don’t notice them. I question if Michael and Barb hide their monsters in their foyer.
Barb may touch my elbow like a she’s picking up a cracked glass and ask about my son’s dad. To break the tension she’ll smile, show me the best parts of her teeth-the insurance paid parts-her tongue delicately tapping the expensive inlays. I will assure her that although my son has no Positive Male Role Model in his life because his dad is in fact a Piece of Shit, he still has several male figures to look up to. I have many friends he likes to call uncle. She will bob her head and cross-stitch her eyebrows like she totally gets it, but she doesn’t get it. So why tell her about the handfuls of men who sometimes cooked me breakfast in the morning, played video games with my son, showed interest-only to be thrown out at 2 am. Guys like Steve, who pawned my son’s Nintendo DS for drugs. Mike left his phone sitting next to me while random texts from Cindi and Sarah popped up with questions asking about sex and money. Then there was Nathan, who punched a hole in my wall in a fit of rage, emphasizing his words: stupid, and bitch. Instead, I will smile and nod, knowing in the wisdom I have acquired only through a support group kind of pain that there really is no way of explaining to this woman that I am a mom, just like her, but I don’t have a husband. I am weary of letting men try to fit a role that I have already been filling myself.
My son has a play date today, so I am pushing back his curtains and raising his window to let more of the light in. He confronts me, anxious for Abraham to arrive and demanding to know where I hid his dinosaur model of a Spinosaurus-much more of a prehistoric badass than a T-Rex ever was. He is hoping to have an epic dinosaur battle. He takes my hand as we explore his room, telling me about all the fun games they can play, the baking soda volcano they can make in order to unleash the final demise of the dinosaurs. I am nodding my head as I look around his room. I notice that the walls show cracks and are shedding their painted skin. I recall how the landlord assured me that although this old Victorian has a lot of history, it also has character. The bones of this house are unbreakable. I flattened my palm against the bumpy painted interior, knowing if it happened to be haunted, if the ghosts were still attached to these flaking walls, I could live with them.
Hillary Leftwich lives in Denver with her son and is a fiction editor for The Conium Review. In her day jobs, she has worked as a private investigator, maid, and pinup model. Her writing has appeared in NANO Fiction, Monkeybicycle, Dogzplot, and Eunoia Review. Her story, “Free Lunch,” is forthcoming in Progenitor and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. When she isn’t writing flash fiction she is reading it and more than likely eating it.