Divorcee (1968)

Our mother springs naked from the tub to answer the phone. Tucking a lone strand of bubbly blonde hair back into her topknot she says Hello to the disappointing salesman pawning waterless cookware. She shoos a buzzing horsefly away from her bare thigh. Forgets about the cookware considers instead the Hawaiian print patio pants displayed in a downtown window and drops the receiver on her bed where the waterless voice sells on. Our mother glides to her desk bathwater dripping wet from neck shoulders breasts. She punches keys on the adding machine until the balance in her checkbook is appealing.

In the hallway mirror she checks her appearance and finds herself, too, appealing. She glances out the window. Brown leaf and withered bud droop from her best geranium. Out she goes into the backyard where she plucks the ungrateful foliage from the carefully tended plant, crumbles it between her fingers and sprinkles it around her rock garden where lava mica smooth water-marked sandstone broken bits of Indian pots, decaying deer and cattle bones grow. Her plot is lush with forget-me-not baby’s breath and some kind of creeper.

She straightens a canvas deck chair overturned by a sudden gust of wind—in spring they daily flood the air. Crawls into it. Dry now. Baked by the afternoon. Burnished. More golden every year. The sun. The gold. Both feel good. She is not getting older. Old. Closes her eyes but does not sleep she dreams a life outside the back porch rock garden surrounding farmland. A beach perhaps a jungle never a city. A smooth desert billowing wide beyond her reach. Not this rough cholla cactus covered one. Dunes. Bare. She spins around her a misty crystalline cocoon. 

The fieldhand who sometimes works in the yard opens the back gate, is not surprised to see her there. The woman who naps naked in the dusty canvas chair. She is not startled or afraid. He tips his sweat-stained hat and she stretches like a cat she might even lick a paw. He untangles the old split garden hose and begins to spray the roses. An airy shush upon the tender bush opens buds, tinges color still pale. In time she will cut and arrange the full-grown flowers into vases fill the unadorned still wintry spaces of our house with afternoons.
Like this.

She is reminded of the hour by the whispering shower upon the roses. Past the rock garden fragrant honeysuckle vine she goes through the backdoor hallway mirror. The waterless man voice gone she puts the receiver on the hook slips back into the tub. Warms the cooled water and waits for the sound of the school bus crashing across the cattle guard. The rattle shakes her out of nakedness out of the sleeping woman the fieldhand knows and into the one who dresses for us in her fine young mother clothes.

 

 

Jane Hammons is the recipient of a Derringer Award for flash fiction from the Short Fiction Mystery Society. Her writing appears in several anthologies including Hint Fiction (W. W. Norton) and The Maternal is Political (Seal Press). She has published in a variety of places, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Crimespree Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and Word Riot

 

Jane Hammons
For many years Jane Hammons taught writing at UC Berkeley. She doesn’t do that anymore, but she’s still writing. Her writing appears in several anthologies including Hint Fiction (W. W. Norton) and The Maternal is Political (Seal Press). She has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of magazines and journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Crimespree Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Southwestern American Literature, and Word Riot. She has work forthcoming in Akashic Books’ online series Mondays are Murder.

Leave a Reply