Monday, September 01, 2008

Brunch with Mother

As the kitchen clock struck ten, the smell of fresh scones and bacon drifted through the small apartment. Warmth from the oven warmed the apartment and light streamed in through the open window. It was a perfect day. Unfortunately, today was brunch day.

David stood before the antique mirror in the bathroom and shaved, tapping the razor into the sink and trying to concentrate on both the conversation and not slitting his throat.His stomach growled as he hurried through the process.

“She won’t stay long. She never does – you know that.” He rinsed the razor, tapped the blade against the sink, then dragged it over his right cheek. He heard a slam from the kitchen and sighed, “Come on, Debra. It’s not that bad. She will be in and out of here in an hour. She’s just visiting. Like always.”

A crash of drawers from the kitchen filled the air.

David rinsed, dried, and applied lotion to his face. He walked from the bathroom and folded his arms over his bare chest.

“Debra…please. We can talk through this later, but she’s going to be here in a minute and I want to greet her clothed.” He smiled.

Debra returned the smile, but it was cool and somewhat transparent.

“I’ll make sure she gives more notice next time, ok? But, just for now, can we be civil? Please?” David ran a hand over his head. He knew Debra didn't like his mother - not many people did - but, these visits had to happen. "Just stay out of sight and you won't even have to deal with her at all.

She nodded and moved off down the hall, saying nothing.

David bowed his head, breathed out a long sigh, then moved to the bedroom to get dressed.

The woman at the table ate at the scone in her hand with delicate bites and spoke with a slight accent and venomous tone. Her hair bun was as tightly wound as she was all the time. She blurted out comments on everyone she knew during their visits and David sat and listened with disinterest. He didn’t even know half the people she spoke ill off during her rants. She sat upright and prim, dispensing ill will. He’d listened to his mother bad mouth everyone from his father to his sister to his horrible, gay neighbors and he’d had just about all he could take for one morning.

“And, you know how she is – all fluff and pink and horrid makeup!” She rubbed her arms. “You always keep it so cold here.”

David ignored the comment about the cold. “Well, she is your sister, Mom.” David grinned and finished his bacon. The coffee swirled in his cup as he checked the time out of the corner of his eye.

“My sister is a ridiculous BEAST of a woman.” She swatted the words away with her hand as if swatting a bug. “Enough about her. She makes me so upset.” She dropped the scone onto the plate and looked at her son with dull eyes. “So, this girl you said you were seeing?”

David looked at her and wanted to laugh as the thought of him somehow making Debra appear through magic appeared in his head. He shook it off. “She’s out.”

“Out.” His mother rolled her eyes and leaned back in the chair with a smug look on her face. “Last time she had some sort of appointment and couldn’t be here either.”

“Well, you don’t give us much notice, do you?” David tried to remain polite.

“Your own mother needs to give notice? Schedule an appointment?” She frowned. “Well, nice to know where I stand.”

“It’s common practice – letting someone know you are thinking about coming by.” David couldn’t hide his impatience and his mother gave him that face that registered both hurt and anger. He’d grown to hate that face as a boy.

Just then, he caught sight of Debra slipping up behind his mother. She stood with pitcher in hand and looked as if she was bound and determined to empty it’s contents over his mother’s head.

David stood and deftly moved around behind his mother, snatching the pitcher up and spinning around to stand between his mother and Debra.

His mother gasped and ducked back a bit, catching her breath and blurting out, “What on earth is wrong with you?!” She frowned.

“Water?” David smiled wide, holding the pitcher high. He heard Debra slip around the corner. He moved back to the table.

Confusion showed on his mothers face as she declined. David slipped the pitcher back onto the countertop and shot Debra a look as she peeked around the corner smiling.

Debra smiled wide and her eyes contained the mischievous quality he’d seen far too many times before. She slipped around the wall.

He thought this would be a good time to end the visit.

“Well, like I said, mother, I do need to run. I’m sorry.” He checked his watch and winced. “I have to run down to the shops before picking up Marty.”

“I thought you said Marty was away this weekend.”

David remembered the lie he told on his sister’s behalf so she didn’t have to attend this little brunch extravaganza. “From the train.” I need to go to the shops, get my-“ He stopped and showed his annoyance by crossing his arms. “What? Do you think this is all some sort of…of con? Some massive running away from you?” He laughed. “Come on, you can walk down to the shops with me is you don’t believe me.” He shook his head with a chuckle and started clearing plates.

“Well, if you’re going to get her, maybe I’ll wait here and we can all have dinner together before I head home?”

David could feel his heart sink. Idiot. “It’ll be hours.” He turned to see Debra moving up slowly and calmly behind his mother with a sour expression. “You know, I’ll clean all this up later.”

Debra bit her bottom lip and brought her hand up high. Something was cradled in her hands. A dictionary?

David was across the room in a heartbeat again, shoving past his mother and up to grab the heavy book away from its arc towards his mother’s head.

With a squawk, his mother fell back into the chair and knocked into her coffee, spilling it across the table. “DAVID!”

David spun on his heel – dictionary in hand. “Present!” He laughed. “You reminded me.” He held the book up and started paging through it.

“You’re on drugs, aren’t you? I saw a program on this just the other night. There’s a singer from the UK that is on the same – heroin? I knew you were losing weight!” She stood. “You are on that or something else. You’re entirely off your ledge! Knocking me over like that!” She looked at her sleeve and grumbled, “Coffee on my new coat, David.”

David closed the book and dropped it onto the end table. He glanced around but didn’t see Debra. He whispered, “Stop it.”

“Stop what?” His mother stood and moved to the sink to wash off her sleeve. “David, you need to seek help from someone. A counselor of some type. Or, go to one of those rehabilitation centers or AA groups.” She rinsed her sleeve with cold water.

David noted the chill of the room increasing. He glanced around and narrowed his eyes.

His mother shut the tap off and looked around for a towel.

That’s when David saw Debra…and the knife. With cat-like grace, he leaned forward, snatched the knife from Debra, and yanked the towel from the refrigerator door. He slipped the towel in front of his mother’s face as he quietly slid the knife onto the counter. “Ta-daa! Towel.”

Eyes wide, she took the towel. “David. I saw the knife.” She dropped the towel onto the kitchen floor. “David.”

David tried with all his might to come up with why he would be waving a knife around his mother. Nothing fit. He watched as the color drained from his mother’s face.

“It…it was floating. Just there. Floating in the air, David.”

“Floating?” He looked over at the knife on the countertop. “Um…I don’t understand.”

“Floating in the air, David. Right there. Inches before my face.” She was white as a ghost - an expression David found extremely funny in this particular situation.

“Mom? Are you ok?” He frowned. “You know, you don’t look at all well.” He cocked his head to one side. “Mom…are…are you on some sort of medication? Is this was that conversation is all about?” David forced concern onto his face. He felt bad about the bait and switch until he remembered all the horrid things his mother had said over the course of the hour.

His mother blinked. “I’m leaving.”

“Maybe I should take you?” He patted her shoulders. “You look so tired. Sure you don’t want to come to the shops with me?”

Without a word, she hugged him and moved to the front door. Purse in hand, she looked back at David and shivered. “Say hello to Marty for me. Maybe we can all meet for dinner one night next month. Out somewhere.” She swallowed hard as she glanced around the apartment. She made her way towards the door looking around like a child on a Haunted House ride. She waved and closed the door behind herself quickly.

David waited and listened for the sound of the front gate slamming shut and his mother’s car pulling away before saying a word to Debra.

He looked at her as she moved through the wall of the kitchen pouting playfully.

“Debra, that was really over the top.” He tried to sound stern.

Debra’s voice was a whisper that sounded like velvet. “Oh David…I wasn’t going to hurt your mother.” She moved to his side and stroked his hair with a willowy, silver and translucent hand.

“She’s an old woman, Debra. She could have had a heart attack.” He sighed. “Really, that was just not right.”

Debra pouted harder and slowly drifted backwards. Her velvet whisper drifted to his ears as she started to fade away. “I’m sorry David.”

“Wait. Come back.” David sighed again and placed his hands on his hips. “Come on.”

Debra appeared behind him. “What?” She blinked innocently. Her hair cut in a short shag and her face was full and beautiful. Her hands moved behind her back and she looked coy.

David turned around and cocked his head to the side. “Just…be nicer?” He smiled sweetly to her. “Please? I mean, as mean as she is, she’s still my mother.”

Again, the syrupy whisper filled the room. “I’ll try.” She shimmered and a smile crossed her face.

David returned the smile and took a deep breath. He could smell her floral scent.

Debra’s arms wrapped around his neck and she pressed in closer. Her body rose slightly so her chest was at his eye level, then she slithered down his front. She floated an inch off the floor looking into his eyes. “Forgive me?” She kissed him and the room grew colder.

The two sank to the sofa. The shops would wait.

A picture hung in the hallway. In it, a woman dressed in a mini-dress stands in David’s apartment’s kitchen by a refrigerator – an older style, but in the same spot. The image was slightly faded and the colors have mostly washed away. “Debra Shelly Summers, Eastmont Terrace, Summer 1967” was written in the corner of the 8x10 image.

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