Dad runs off with the Episcopal priest, Father Edgar. He’s tired of pretend, he says.
Mom insists on dressing like June Cleaver, replete with pearls. Out go the jeans and turtlenecks, in come the lavender dresses.
She says things were so orderly once. Starts playing Perry Como. Tony Bennett. Crooning constipation clashes with Afroman. Colt 45, meet a stranger in paradise.
Mom always asks how sister Nancy and I are, hugging with octopus force. We must be happy, she says, over and over.
We almost miss old, impatient Mom absorbed in the whirl of her teaching and lesson plans. Dissecting Rasputin and Nicholas II’s incompetence. Dropping F-bombs and telling the occasional dirty joke as veiled apology. Our favorite being the one about Mickey Mouse demanding a divorce from Minnie because she’s fucking Goofy.
We tell her we love her, tell her the past isn’t a salve. She used to condemn longing for the past as “golden age thinking,” a phrase from her favorite movie, Midnight in Paris.
We even call Dad, beg him to return. Explain it wasn’t her fault.
He says old life crippled him, the words fusillades whose cadences echo in our living room. Father Edgar and he fit, spiritually and in worldview and attraction. He needs someone to discuss the spiritual facets of life, someone to explain things mere logic can’t. The mysteries of growing old, of impending death.
Mom’s too damn logical, he says, hanging up.
Mom withdraws further into starched smiles. Nancy and I try everything, take Mom to dinner, rip up photos of Dad. She just smiles, tells us to be positive.
We burn her pearls and records one night, watching the flames rise. Mom moves around us, trying to salvage them, but we pull her back. She keeps repeating platitudes. Positivity, positivity, says we need to retreat from darkness.
We curse Tony Bennett, curse Dad, curse lies.
We feel the heat of the flames, try not to envision surrender to June Cleaver. We burn on, watching the flames, their shape.
Mom keeps talking, words like “swell,” and “peachy,” assaulting our weary souls.
We bid silent goodbye to Mom.
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. A recipient of two Honorable Mentions from Glimmer Train, his story “Soon” was nominated for a Pushcart. He has also had work nominated for The Best Small Fictions. Yash’s stories are forthcoming or have been published in Café Lit, Mad Swirl, 50 Word Stories, and Ariel Chart, among others.