He hated her, I mean really. He detested everything she stood for, said he begged to stay in foster care after she got tossed from the mental hospital. Later, when he was in the joint, he discovered heartburn was not a condition common to merely eating dinner and realized the culinary torture he’d endured at her hands while growing up. Turmeric, calendula, lignin peroxidase, and cumin, he said. And, garlic on toast.
The boyfriends, well, what can you say about guys who roll beer cans under the couch and bash out the front windows? She said he was descended from German nobility, called him baron, and he knew it was a lie. Sometimes, even now, when people talk down to him like he’s a shaded bulb, he clicks his heels and bows at the waist. When he’s furious, he takes their hand, male and female, and kisses the back of it. When on the verge of mayhem, he gently brushes the palm with his mouth. His lips are full and pink.
He said he couldn’t stand her fake French accent, her pretensions about being an artist, the red lipstick on her teeth and her Asian roomers padding down the hall in stocking feet, always late with the rent. Watching her slurp melty strawberry ice cream in bed, dribbling it onto the greasy sheets where they’d slept together when he was small, made him nauseous and ashamed.
When she died, he told everyone to look up the word LOVE in the dictionary. He said they’d find his mother’s picture there. I checked and found only splattered words, pages stiff and faded. I see letters and lies, and even though I know he cannot read, I love him.
In addition to writing fiction and poetry, Kate Campbell is an environmental and political writer. Her work appears regularly in newspapers and magazines throughout the West. She lives in Sacramento and publishes the Word Garden blog at https://kcamp300.wordpress.com/