November by Mike DiChristina

November 1, 2012 Comments Off on November by Mike DiChristina

Joe called his son, Tom, on All Souls Day to confirm Thanksgiving.

“Sure you and Ma are up for it?” said Tom.

“No problem,” said Joe.

“We’ll just come for dinner.”

“That’s a long drive. Stay over night,” said Joe, “Angela loves it, and the kids love sleeping in your old room. I’ll make French toast Friday morning. Maybe we’ll go shopping downtown.”

“We’ll bring the turkey.”

“We got the turkey,” said Joe.

“Okay, Pops,” said Tom.

Joe hung up. Upstairs, he lay next to Angela. “They’re coming,” he whispered.

That night, Joe sat at the kitchen table with his calendar opened to November, a sheet of notepaper, and a pencil stub. Licking his pencil as he wrote, Joe made two columns on the notepaper: one for food, the other for chores. Then, he transferred each item to his calendar, making an entry on the day he would perform the given task.

The next day, Joe started upstairs with the unused bedrooms, washing the linens and cleaning the windows and floors. In Tom’s old room, Joe opened the closet door and pulled the desk chair over. The chair creaked as he stood on it, just tall enough to reach the stuffed monkey on the top shelf. He removed the monkey from the plastic bag and smelled it before placing it on the bed.

When each room was in order, Joe closed the door and checked it off on his planner.

Early in the month, Joe acquired the non-perishable items: canned squash, frozen corn, Stovetop Stuffing. He also bought corn muffin mix and cranberry sauce.

Later, he focused on downstairs. He placed a pillow on the kitchen floor to protect his knees and waxed the linoleum. Outside, he raked the barren backyard, scratching the shiny brown earth, stuffing leaves, dried dog shit, and windblown garbage into a plastic bag.

One evening, the front doorbell rang.

The priest stood in the front foyer, wrinkling his nose. “How’s Angela?” he said.

“Visiting Tom,” said Joe, “New baby.”

“Tell her I miss her.”

“Me, too,” said Joe.

On Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, Joe walked to the A&P to buy fresh things for a salad. He bought crackers, cheddar cheese, and a six-pack to watch the football games with Tom. For Friday breakfast, he got eggs, milk, and white bread. He had cinnamon leftover from last year. The prices had gone up, so he didn’t have enough cash, but the lady let him go.

“You pay me next week,” she said.

That night he woke up remembering he had forgotten the butter.

“I forgot the butter,” he said to Angela, “and the syrup.”

Joe set the table on Wednesday morning. He put chocolate turkeys at the kids’ seats for after dinner, and he laid Saran wrap over the table to keep the dust off.

That afternoon, the delivery boy came over with the turkey, which Joe left on the counter to defrost.

Joe was ready. He sat in the dusk and practiced talking.

© 2012 Mike DiChristina

Mike DiChristina’s stories have recently been published at Literary Juice and Postcard Shorts. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three daughters.

Jade by Mike DiChristina

July 12, 2012 Comments Off on Jade by Mike DiChristina

George was the dessert man at the prepared food counter. He was short and round, and sported a black caterpillar mustache. His buddy the butcher called him ‘Vanilla Pudding.’

At the end of his Saturday shift, George picked out a German chocolate cake from the expired desserts. He placed the cake in a fold-up cardboard box and tied it with string. Ming loved German chocolate cake. George figured just seeing it might get her to remember the good times.

The butcher gave him a pound of deli ham wrapped up in white paper.

“Take it,” said the butcher, “You don’t eat it tonight, it’ll be prosciutto by Monday morning.”

Carrying his packages, George walked home to his apartment. He shaved and showered and trimmed his moustache. He put on the Hawaiian shirt Ming loved. After eating a thick ham and mustard sandwich and washing it down with a beer, George left for Ming’s.

On the way, he stopped by an ATM to extract five crisp twenty-dollar bills.

George had continued to visit Ming even after there was no chance of any carnal pleasure. Ming’s daughter Helen — a thirty-something-year-old waitress — opened the apartment door, her lank black hair falling over her eyes. George handed her the cake box. Helen bowed and wordlessly returned to the kitchen to read books filled with columns of chicken scratches. George removed his coat and shoes and left them in the front hall.

George and Ming watched America’s Funniest Home Videos on the TV in the bedroom. He sat in a chair next to the bed, while Ming lay with her eyes closed, fingering the synthetic jade necklace George had given her years before. The room smelled of unwashed Ming, so George

opened the window a crack, allowing the wet black night air to slip into the room. When the show ended, Ming was asleep. George left his twenties on Ming’s night table before kissing her hot white forehead.

In Ming’s final weeks, George came every evening, though he only brought the twenties once per week. He and Helen gave Ming sponge baths, laving Ming with warm soapy water. The jade necklace lay glistening on her scarred chest. Ming’s body had become that of a child: goose-pimpled white skin, hollow stomach, and her toes little rows of pearl onions. George held his breath to avoid breathing in Ming’s stench. After drying Ming off, they changed her sheets and pulled a nightdress over her body.

Ming died in March. For several weeks, George stayed home on Saturday nights, until one Saturday night in April. George walked over to Ming’s, stopping at the ATM along the way.

He knocked on Ming’s door, and Helen opened it. She wore a blue dress the color of a robin’s egg. Her glossy hair was swept up, revealing her long white neck, upon which, hung Ming’s jade necklace.

© 2012 Mike DiChristina

Mike DiChristina’s stories have recently been published in Concisely and Gone Lawn. Mike currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and three teenaged daughters.

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