20180614

Rochelle Ratner


Black Cats, Skeletons, and Other Decorations


Just her luck. Really, it was nothing more than teenage angst. She'd wanted a later curfew. She'd wanted to borrow the car. She'd wanted to get into Princeton. She'd wanted the boys to notice her, and for one boy in particular to ask her out, maybe to kiss her and, you know. She'd simply wanted people to know she existed. So, at ten o'clock on a Thursday morning, when neither of her parents were home, and the husbands along the block had left for work, and the other kids had left for school, but cars would still be passing by and mothers would be taking their toddlers to the park, she threw a rope around the oak tree in front of her house, slipped the other end around her neck, scaled halfway up the trunk of the tree, and pushed herself off. What she hadn't counted on was that it was this close to Halloween.



Mother Driving


Early on, she learned how fickle friends are: the stealing club formed in sixth grade, and how the first girl caught ratted on the others; the best friend in tenth grade who really wanted to sleep with her; the friend five years ago, almost like a sister, who ran off with her husband. Leaving her, of course, with three daughters. Every four months she has to drive the girls over fifty miles to see their father. The baby (hers alone) is behind her in the back seat, strapped in, then one girl in the front seat, separated by the gearshift, not too close, not clinging. Her daughters have to learn what friendship really costs: the largest slice of pie or scoop of ice cream, the treasured green piece in whatever game they're playing, the prettiest Barbie doll, this car that only seats five people. They can't even visit their father without some friend along, the middle girl pleading, whining. So okay, the two oldest will take turns giving up their seats to her. She just prays it's hot enough in that trunk that they'll always remember.



Abandoned typewriter at Wal-Mart creates bomb scare


1.

She was seventeen when she bought her first electric typewriter B a big old IBM, heavy as hell, years before Selectrics. She paid $50, brought it home, plugged it in, and it didn't work. Her father bent out the plugs slightly and it was fine. She thought of herself as a writer.


2.

Touch typing evenings. In summer school. This is what her parents say will give her the chance to get ahead in any office. She attends. She types. She cuts class one night. She walks the Boardwalk. She plays Fascination.


3.

She types envelopes for a penny apiece, from home. The office where she later works has a newfangled memory typewriter. She moves to New York and later buys a Selectric. Her father talks about people learning word processing. That's something she'd be good at.


4.

Computer. Commute her.


5.

She's a writer, that's how she got the studio apartment. Her parents put plexiglass panes in one of the casement windows so she can have an air conditioner. Turn on that typewriter when the air conditioner's on and a fuse blows. The fuse box is down in the basement. Her apartment fused to the one below it. Another neighbor coming on to her when she asks if she can use his phone.



6.

There are three phones in her living room. Her uncle picks one up, tries to dial, then puts it down and picks up another one. She's been doing dishes, barely looks around. He can't get that other to work, he says. The buttons don't press. She shuts the water off. It's an old princess dial phone. Eighty-four years old. And he's forgotten dials this quickly. He's her favorite uncle. She's become closer to him than to her father.


7.

She writes. She travels. She watches the 9/11 events on tv, as if it's a world away. She watches unattended luggage blown up at a Paris airport. A flight from London is delayed because baggage has been checked by an absent passenger. She's nearly sixty years old, and she never shops at Wal-Mart. That strange square box containing something suspicious has nothing whatsoever to do with her.



Woman sacked by text


She knows she's in trouble when a pink-haired diva wants a fourth stud around her right eye, and she keeps seeing six studs instead of three. She sells her a little gold starfish. Luckily, she hasn't learned to pierce yet, she's only been at The Blue Banana two months. She takes out her earrings and puts in the magnetic teardrops, in hopes they might help the pain. She wishes to hell she could turn down that blasting music. She takes the stud out of her left nostril, which at least makes it easier to breathe. A woman tries on three sequined halter tops, but doesn't buy one. Folding them up again, the sequins float before her, change colors, and bring on nausea. Finally she makes it home. She unplugs the phone, gulps an Imitrix, but she's waited too long. It's nearly noon before she makes it out of bed again. She sees her cell flashing like those damn sequins. It's from the Banana. We will not require your services any longer. Her eyes squint again at the tiny letters. You have no idea how much it hurts.




 
 
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