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.