“This family moved to the city after the war, and we’ve hung on like ticks on a dog’s ass ever since,” his father would say. “Someday, one of us is going to explode. You’ll see.”
Maybe that’s what happened. The father’s words became the son’s private epitaph. Not the pious version carved into stone, spoken by no one and sitting over in that mute field of words at the edge of town. He hated visiting the cemetery with her, it was like trying to pick out a lie in the universe somewhere and it made his head hurt.
But today was shopping day. Supplies and security, and always, always the long deliberation over which pastry to choose for Sunday breakfast. You always take the same one, he could have told her. You always take the cheapest.
The bus was full. His mother took the nearest seat and he settled in behind, backpack full and pushing into the crowd. So many people, he started to feel awkward and ashamed, he wished he’d worn more clothing but on such a hot day… And so it was that he fixed on his mother’s hands, gripping the metal back of the seat in front, moving, tightening, moving again as if in search of the most enduring surface.
Shelling peas, sweet green summer peas, tension to break the skin and then grace as they fell into the metal bowl. I can’t wait, I can’t wait any longer, I’ve got to get to the bar.