In the room below ours, my mother welcomed visitors to her sleep. A Brownie troupe crowded around her bed and stared. Pets dropped in. Old neighbors. One early morning, my husband nudged me awake. "Listen." My mother was laughing, and a minute later, laughed again—a delighted trill, as if she were in the company of someone she adored. I asked her if she remembered her dream. "Artie was here," she said. Artie. Her lover decades gone. "Um, hmm," I said, but there was no denying her bright cheeks or the hazy cloud of cigar smoke hovering near the bedroom ceiling shaped like Artie's toupee.
Henrietta asks about my sex life
The leader of the consciousness raising group asked the women to describe a sexual fantasy. Seven of us, college seniors, sat blinking into our paper cups of red wine. One member our mothers' age, who tsk-tsked at everything, shrugged, said, "Why the hell not?" Her fantasy returns in cinematic shorthand: young virgins swim naked in a pool; a god, or some guy in a toga, walks around the perimeter, then points to a blonde and a brunette, who climb out, bow to him, then look at each other in a way that suggests, one: they think he's a shmuck; and two: it's been a long time since they were virgins.
So, your father, Henrietta says
A Ferris-wheel plays tinkly tunes. Skinny, big-nosed, curly-haired, taller than the three grinning wise guys he stands with on the beach. He's gobbled two Nathan's hotdogs, savors pepper and sweet onions. At sixteen, he can barely swim. Tries to linger at the shoreline, let his friends drift. As the undertow sweeps, he thinks of Moe, or was it Larry or Curly? one of the Three Stooges he loved, who yanked a tablecloth and made the dishes leap. My father's near drowning was like that stunt: the ocean's brutal twirl.
is the author of Beautiful Raft
(Big Table Publishing, 2019) and Mall Flower
(Big Table Publishing, 2016). Her writing can be found in Rattle, Verse Daily, The Best Small Fictions 2020
(spotlighted story) and 2016, Trampset, Gone Lawn, The American Poetry Journal, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, Gyroscope Review, the Fourth River, the Maryland Literary Review, Nasty Women Poets anthology, South Florida Poetry Journal, Sky Island Journal
and elsewhere. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has several Best of the Net nods. She teaches at The Poetry Barn and Writers.com
. Find her at TinaBarryWriter.com