“Always stay large,” says the kid’s scrawl,
scratches which she searches for hints of kindness.
Zilch so far but perhaps there’s a meta-level
to keep her from coming up empty. She’s certain
there’s substance in there. Like the birthday honorees
who shake their cards before reading, focused on the flutter
of a check or cash tender. Or they note the lack of insert.
Like all those people. “Lame,” her son clarifies,
standing at her shoulder, waist-high moments back.
“Always stay lame,” he kids at kidding, maybe (?), does he (?)
“Large would be so rude.” That’s the center of her holiday,
the part not involved with making clean clothes
and sandwiches. You’re welcome, she wants to tell him.
“May you have one just like you.” She does say that out loud.
When the funny isn’t funny, mothers worry what will come
from their sincere efforts. Large is better, she thinks, if you
have to be a word they hang on you. Large as in colossus,
durable, too big to fail. Large is without fear.
Where lame means can’t stand or walk, and she will stand it.
She’ll wait, hopeful. The child will be remorseful
or he won’t this time. The future is so easy to misread.
Todd Mercer won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Contest for 2015. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer’s recent poetry and fiction appear in: Bartleby Snopes, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, Eunoia Review, Gravel, Kentucky Review, The Lake, Literary Orphans, Main Street Rag anthologies and Misty Mountain Review.