May 102017
 

“I met him when I was twenty-five.” The sticky dough was passed back and forth between Agatha’s hands and she kneaded it rhythmically until chubby logs were formed. “I had noticed him around town before — cruising down Main Street in his pimento-hued jalopy; one lanky arm, permanently marred with dots of trauma from his recurring bout with shingles, draped confidently over the side of the door. Grease the pan, Cecilia.”

“Mother, what’s a shingle?” Cecilia asked as she moved the stick of oleo along the cookie tray, edges of which were blackened from years of use. Agatha ignored her child’s inquiry as she methodically bathed each log of dough in a lake of sugar; she was lost in thought.

“We always seemed to be at Barb’s Taffy Stand at the same time. My mama said it was serendipity, but I argued that he was tailing me. Not wanting to surrender, I’d fixate on the wide, colorful bands of chewy sugar being pulled and stretched by metal arms, pretending not to notice that he was standing well inside normal human comfort zones, with his cowlick prominent and glistening from a daub of pomade, and his butterfly knife tucked into the front pocket of his jeans. I tried to ignore the acrid redolence of chewing tobacco bred with halitosis and a marinade of anchovies as he breathed his order for banana taffy too close to my nostrils.”

Agatha squirted several drops of red food coloring into a bowl and began folding it into the goo, creating sanguine swirls among the stark white frosting. She continued her tale, in no need of prodding.

“One day, we ended up in the same room together. I pretended to be immersed in a gossip rag, but every time I glanced up, I spied him making lewd gestures at me from across the room.”

“What kind of gestures, Mother?” Cecilia asked, dropping dough logs too-close-together on the tray.

“Well, like the universal sign for cunnilingus,” Agatha ruminated, quickly lashing her tongue between v-spread fingers, in an impetuous demonstration.

With Cecilia nodding to show her comprehension, Agatha continued. “After a few minutes, he sidled up next to me and whispered, ‘Hey broad, let’s blow this abortion clinic.'”

“Didn’t he mean ‘popsicle stand’?” Cecilia scrutinized.

“Oh, no dear,” Agatha chuckled. “We really were in an abortion clinic. He was there delivering pizzas and I was there—” She stopped when she saw Cecilia’s face, constricted with horror. “Oh honey, no!” laughed Agatha. “I wasn’t there to abort you. But let’s just say that if I hadn’t gone back the next day, you’d have a big brother or sister. Possibly inbred,” she mused.

“So,” Agatha continued, extracting the first batch of baked cookies from the oven. “Against my better judgment, I began seeing him. We’d meet up behind the bait shop, under the rusted train trestle, sometimes on an honest to goodness mattress. I kind of started to like him.” Agatha stared out the rain-streaked window.

“What went wrong, Mother?” Cecilia asked, her face furnished with curiosity and chicken pox scars.

Agatha seemed to bristle momentarily, but then forged on with the story. “I found out he was seeing someone else. Nancy Jenkins, the proprietor of the town bordello. They shared a Winnebago together, and kept it parked near the river bank where together they could share the perfect view of the sunset. I tried to be OK with being the mistress, his dirty secret, his fat-bottomed hussy, but my father told me that I deserved better than that, even despite my cleft palate.

“So I told him he had to break up with her,” Agatha recounted as she slid the cookies onto a cracked serving platter. “He seemed angry at my audacity, and I saw his hand gravitate, almost instinctively, toward his knife. But then he turned and left without a fight; I fear I’d never see him again. The next night, he showed up at my doorstep, holding out a red velvet ring box.”

Cecilia’s cookie-frosting came to a halt and she smiled up at her mother expectantly. Agatha finished dabbing the tip of Cecilia’s neglected cookie with a flourish of crimson frosting before continuing.

“I thought to myself, ‘This is it, Aggie. Someone’s finally going to make an honest woman of you,’ and I gingerly accepted the gift from his out-stretched hand. But there was no ring inside, Cecilia. Not even a pendant or a brooch.”

“Not even a key to his Winnebago?” Cecilia asked, befuddled.

“Not even a key.” Agatha licked her lips, gummy from being so chatty. “Inside that box, resting gently atop the velvet innards, was a finger.”

“A WHAT?”

“…a blue-nailed finger,” Agatha calmly repeated. “I never meant for him to kill her! It was all a misunderstanding,” Agatha rushed, assuaging Cecilia from conniptioning. “‘I said break up with her, not break her!‘ I hollered at him. He laughed and said, ‘Well babe, same end result either way, am I right?'”

“You left him after that, right Mother? You ran real fast, right? Tell me it’s so.”

“Well, not exactly, sweetheart. I had to stay with him…”

“…because you were pregnant with me? He got you pregnant didn’t he? He’s my real daddy isn’t he? And not that clown from the circus who stole our refrigerator!”

“Oh honey, no,” Agatha laughed into the tray of tampon-shaped cookies, freshly baked for the upcoming Menstruation Masquerade; it would be Cecilia’s first time attending. “It was because he had an enormous cock!”

[Originally published January 8, 2008. Reposted because I can do shit like that.]

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