The following story was the winner of the Rilla Askew Prize for Fiction and was published in “Conclave: A Journal of Character, Winter 2018.” It’s a print-only publication, so I’ll post the story here.
By way of introduction, I’d say this is a story that focuses on the feeling of adjusting to being alone, post-divorce. But that sounds so serious, and leaves out the fact that, as always, many things are very funny, even while we are in pain . . .
You share your child with a person you don’t know, just because that person is sleeping with your former husband: that’s the deal now. You pull up, get out of the car, kiss your child goodbye, and hand her backpack to her. You wave at the woman in the doorway, your old doorway.
You try to convey adultness, a peacefulness you don’t feel. My god, she just stands there, smiling, waiting for your child to traipse up the walk. What is she thinking? And then, like any mother, she puts her hand on your child’s shoulder and says something to her you’ll never hear, smoothly moving her into the house. What is it? What could it be?
The back of your girl’s dark-haired head, her backpack, her rainbow polka dot rain boots disappear and the door shuts between you, all gone, poof! You look around, to see if the neighbors are watching, curtains twitching. You have to move, you have to get back in the car. You can’t let yourself run up and bang on the door, demanding your child. This is the arrangement and it has its rules.
You drive to your apartment, dazed. You shouldn’t be driving, is what I think, you’ve had a shock and need tea, need pats from soothing hands. It’s all wrong, isn’t it? That woman is with your child as often as you are, filling out half the joint custody dance card along with your ex. Her hip, narrow figure in its narrow, hip jeans stays in your mind. Her shirt falls loosely over her flat belly. Her hair has a way of swinging across her cheek—she must get it styled in one of those places with graffiti for wall décor, the kind that gives people her age a cheap beer, gratis, to help them bear the boredom. She’s a Pilates teacher! But a good mom—am I right?—a good mom has no abs. Continue reading