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TWO STORIES

ONE

It was dark and dim, that trailer — sorry, mobile home — a long, narrow cave of light-absorbing artificial wood paneling and cheap shag carpeting. Flimsy-feeling; it bounced a little when she moved about, or anyone (her daughter or son-in-law, really — she had no friends here) mounted the metal-grate step to come in the door with a quick pro-forma knock. That silly excuse for a cathedral ceiling did nothing to brighten the room.

Well. It was true that after he’d died so sudden she hadn’t really been willing or able to keep up that big old house by herself, let alone live in it, alone. So they’d bought this used trailer home, parked it on blocks across the back yard from their ranch house, hooked up some plumbing and electricity, and moved her in along with as much stuff from the old house as they could squeeze in around her. It was good of them, she thought, but hardly what she would’ve chosen: a few pieces of light, spare Danish Modern, maybe. In a nice clean, bright apartment in town, in one of those new buildings with a pool, and common rooms, and access to the amenities of a small city – bookstores, movies, parks…

But here she was. And she was not one to hurt people’s feelings by seeming ungrateful. She hadn’t had time, in her grief, to formulate her own wishes until after the fact of that terrible, chaotic move. They seemed happy to have her here. She planted a little flower garden outside the trailer, and, wearing her gardening hat, smiled faintly for her daughter’s camera.

Story by Glenda Blake

TWO

Some Kinds of Silence

Zelda pulled her shoulders back. She could remember her mother’s fingers digging into them, correcting Zelda’s posture. Saidie would hang on like she was the grey matted cat Letty leaning against the sofa, stretching her back legs. Or like cousin Mikey who pulled Zelda down from behind once, filling her nostrils with chlorine.

It seems like Saidie had always been so much shorter than her. By the time Zelda was 14, Saidie would tell her off every evening before supper. Every frustrating thing that had happened during the day would be squeezed into complaints. Saidie’s raspy voice would float upward, her cracked, crooked hands hacking through the kitchen air. Doing nothing to dissipate the grease smells or to stop the pots from boiling into the crack between the stove and the counter. Zelda tried to avoid sit-downs at the kitchen table. She would wait until Saidie said “For God’s sake, what are you doing. Set the table! We need to eat now.” One time, only one time, she made the mistake of responding to the onslaught before Saidie was done. Saidie’s left hand had wobbled, her neck had strained as she poked her chin higher, and she pulled at Zelda’s right arm and told her to sit. The barrage had stopped but Zelda felt more nauseous than ever.

Today, Zelda tried to look dignified. Her arms were tanned from working in the garden but her hats protected her face. After all these years, she could hear her mother’s admonishments. She needed to look pretty. She needed to smile but not grin. She needed to pause before she saw Saidie’s now wandering eyes. She would sit at the table. She would wait for an onslaught. She would hold her head steady and think about the sadness of some kinds of silence. She would gauge but not respond. She would wait. Smile but not grin.

Story by Sharon Roseman

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