Story: Marking Mildred

Pam Parker ‘81 is community forum editor for The Lyon Review. “Marking Mildred” first appeared in The Potomac Review in Fall 2010. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in Grey Sparrow Press, The MacGuffin, The Binnacle, elimae, the Marquette Literary Journal and other print and online venues. Links to some of her stories can be found at pamwrites.net.

 

Mildred Collins opened the door and stepped inside Tattoo Tango, not sure what to expect. Bells rang above her, not modern electronic ones, but pleasant, old-fashioned ones, like at the corner store decades ago in Cedar Falls.

She considered leaving. Clutter abounded – piles of binders were stacked on the floor in front of a counter and more spread on the countertop. A grouping of red, white and green notebooks reminded her of the Italian flag and the trip she and Henry took for their 35th anniversary, years ago, shortly before Henry died. Pictures and posters covered the walls – skulls, spiders, snakes — all sorts of shudder-inducing images. For a second, just a second, Mildred wondered if she had crossed a dreaded threshold entering this store. Had she drifted from sweet old lady into a daft one?

Frozen on the welcome mat, Mildred adjusted her pocketbook, regretting that she had taken this bag. It was big and heavy, too much for her arthritic spine and shoulders to comfortably manage.

A tall, thin young man appeared from a curtained door behind the counter. “Sorry, I was busy in the back. Can I help you?”

He pushed a pile of binders to the side and leaned on the countertop. Mildred saw some inky artwork on his arms and wondered what designs he wore. His hair was black and short, as black as his tee shirt, except for a long light purple lock dripping off one side.

Mildred bit her lip. Don’t laugh. Don’t stare.

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Story: Sugar Daddy

Louise Demarest Thunin ’66 has been living in France since graduation. She has published four novels, two in English and two in French, and a number of her short stories in English have appeared in American literary journals. Her three cats inspire the monthly column she writes with a friend in the “felizine”, catnipchronicles.com. Louise leads a writing workshop in French in her home near Le Mans.

Five years after the fact, André discovered he was a father.  The news had come in the form of a Polaroid snapshot:  a wide-eyed little girl with very straight, very brown hair, pressing against a pair of adult legs in black, flared jeans.  The picture didn’t show Alicia’s face, but he recognized the slender limbs, the way she held her feet, with the left one pointing inward ever so slightly.  He used to think her stance was quaint, proof of a shy temperament.  If she was retiring, she was also ferociously proud and secretive. But such a secret as this?

He’d studied the picture carefully.  There was no denying it.  She looked like him. He’d seen innumerable childhood pictures of himself at his parents’ home in Arles, and something in the little girl’s puzzled stare reminded him of his own intense gaze at the same age.  Beyond astonishment, his first emotion in front of the picture was anger.  It crashed in bitter heaves inside his chest and made his diaphragm ache, as if he’d been running too fast and too much.  He felt deceived and totally disarmed, defeated.  Why hadn’t she told him?  Why had she waited?  If it wasn’t because she needed money, then why tell him at all?  Did she expect him to feel paternal stirrings at this point in history, their history, his own?

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