mama got drunk and picked up a man. she always does that. she thinks she’s not pretty. daddy says, but honey, you’re beautiful. he says, darling, you’re gorgeous, you’re my morning star. she says, but look at my nose.
she drinks wine and takes me and daddy to art openings, where she drinks more wine and talks a lot. she will talk to anybody who will listen. daddy says sometimes he gets so tired. they throw things at each other and i hide behind the couch.
daddy says he tries to understand. he puts his arms around her and kisses her head and says, there, there. he says, sweetheart, i love you. she cries and says, i know.
i wish they’d let me watch tv.
when things get broken, daddy cleans them up. mama looks at herself in the mirror and turns her head like this. she says, what should i wear tonight? but she always wears black. she says that’s what you’re supposed to wear to art openings. daddy wears blue jeans and a nice shirt. they don’t fight about it. i think she’s pretty when she puts on her black dress and all her rings. daddy says so, too. he says he thinks she’s really sexy. she says, do you really think so? he says, of course, or i wouldn’t say it. she says, you’re just saying that. he says, no, i’m not, and i wish you wouldn’t say that. she says, i’ll say what i please.
he says he doesn’t mind so much if she picks other men up, just so long as she’s careful about where she sets them down.
(Originally published in Chiron Review No. 66, Autumn 2001. Copyright by Tetman Callis.)