Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Flash Fiction: Tomato Paste

Image by Chrys Campos 

When Dawn had arrived to pick up her mother that afternoon, she’d found her waiting on the porch, impeccably dressed, as always: pantsuit, lipstick, hair curled.  Her mother sat on the porch swing, her purse in her lap, like a woman waiting for the bus.  Her only concession to old age was the slip-on elastic shoes she wore.  Ten years ago, she wouldn’t have been caught dead in such unattractive footwear, not even to throw out the trash.  Now they were necessary because the blood pressure medication caused her feet to swell. 

She held carefully to Dawn’s arm as they descended the porch stairs together.  When Dawn helped her into the car, her arthritic fingers sought vainly for the seatbelt.  The buckle had slipped down between the seat and the door.  Wordlessly, Dawn retrieved it for her.

When they got to the grocery store, Dawn pushed the cart.  It was a newer store, a cavern of florescence.  Aisle upon aisle presented itself in a succession of gleaming linoleum floors, bright cairns of vegetables and fruit, and humming freezer cases.  The walkways bustled with shoppers.  At first, her mother walked slowly beside her.  She opened her pocket book and her hands shook so much the coupons fell out.  A stock boy helped Dawn gather them up. 

Gradually, her mother shrank closer and closer to Dawn’s side.  She kept asking things like, “Shouldn’t the cereal be over here?” and “Don’t forget tomato paste.  I need tomato paste.”  Her voice rose with a sort of panicky insistence.

It was in the meat section that she started to cry, her mascara running.

“Oh, Mom,” Dawn said, patting her arm with equal helplessness.

“I don’t like this store,” her mother said.  “I want to go to Thriftway.”

Her daughter said, “They closed the Thriftway last year, remember?”  She did not add, And you don’t need tomato paste.  You haven’t made your spaghetti sauce since Dad died.



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