Sunday, December 30, 2012


“Hey, Ma.”
            “Yes, Joseph?” his mother replied.
            “Let’s go for a stroll,” Joseph said. “Like we used to do when I was a kid.”
            His mother looked at him, tilting her head forward so she could see over the top of her glasses.
            “What’s brought this on?” she asked.
            “Nothin’, it’s nothin’. . . Imma just feelin’ sorta nostalgic,” he replied.
            “Every time you say ‘it’s nothing’, it ALWAYS turns out to be SOMETHING. Who do you owe money to this time?” his mother asked as she lifted her head and folded her arms.
            “No one, nobody,” Joseph said. “ I don’t owe a dime to no one.”
            His mother just started tapping her foot as she pursed her lips, squinted, and tilted her head. She shot a quick glance at the rolling pin on the counter.
            “I’m serious!” he said in a half whine. “I was just watchin’ the guys put up the lights for the holidays. I was figurin’ we could take a stroll downtown and see all the decorations.”
            His mother maintained her posture for several long moments, then slowly a smile crept across her face. She relaxed her arms and put them on her hips.
            “You really surprise me sometimes,” she said. “I’ll go get my coat and shoes.”
            “Sure thing, Ma.”
            His mother turned and quickly walked the living room. She waited until she was walking up the stairs to wipe the budding tears from her eyes.
            Back in the kitchen, Joseph was wiping the sweat that had formed on his brow.
            “So far, so good . . .,” he said to himself.
            A few minutes later they were walking down the block, arm in arm.
            “This reminds me of when your father was alive,” his mother said.
            “I know, Ma—” he started.
            “No, you don’t,” she cut in. “I’m talking about BEFORE you were born. Back when I was still dating your father. Our very first date was a stroll around the block to look at Christmas lights.”
            “No kiddin’?” Joseph asked surprised.
            “Yeah, it was a date,” she started with a chuckle, “but of course we couldn’t go unsupervised. Your grandfather followed about twenty steps behind us.”
            “Get outta here,” he said incredulously.
            “No, I’m serious,” she replied. “If it wasn’t for your grandmother walking next to him, he would’ve been closer than that.”
            They both broke out in full belly laughs. They walked on for a couple more blocks in silence, quietly looking at people’s various decorations.
            “I don’t owe any money,” Joseph said suddenly.
            “Why bring that up?” his mother asked.
            “Well, I just,” he started as his voice got quieter, “wanted to tell you . . .”
            His mother stopped and let go of his arm. She stared at him with the same look she gave in the kitchen.
            “Tell me what?” she demanded as she crossed her arms.
            “I don’t owe any money,” Joseph said.
            “But?” she pressed. “There’s something else, isn’t there?” 
            Joseph turned and looked down the block, back in the direction they had come. He never noticed his mother dropping her arms or changing her posture.
            “Well you know how you signed the Buick over to me—” he started, but never finished. A well place right finished it for him.
            The last thing he remembered, before losing consciousness, was a brief glimpse of his mother’s tear soaked face as she threw the most wicked punch he had ever received.

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