The Number Eight Bus breaks down, again, but this time only three blocks from my stop. I text Hestia, tell her I’m on my way home. It’s almost six, already dark, chilly, damp. My phone chirps warns me my phone battery’s low. Well, everything is low in my life now. Shit, I can see rock bottom coming up real fast. ## I step into our dump of an apartment. We’re a month behind in the rent. It’s too hot in here, but at least we got heat and shelter. On her fancy glass coffee table, salvaged from her former life, there’re two fat brown envelopes. One for her and one for me, informing us that our respective divorces are winding their way through the legal labyrinth. My mother looks like a brown June Cleaver, in her sincere suit, her interview outfit, covered by a long white apron, stirring the contents of a pot on the stove that has two out of four functional burners. She turns toward me with a too-bright smile. “Hey, baby, did you see your mail?” “Yeah, I opened it. I’ll sign it in the morning. You know, you don’t have to cook. How did your interview go?” “Not cooking, baby. Just canned tomato soup and grilled cheese. I think the interview went well. I hope it did.” I brush her cheek with my lips and check the fridge in hopes a beer or two has materialized. The beer elves must be on strike. ## We eat at the fancy coffee table. Sitting on the floor on the couch cushions. She tries to be cheerful and upbeat, optimistic. I fake smiles, nod and keep my downbeat attitude under cover. At twenty-five, I’m living in this hovel with my forty-two-year old mother. One year ago Mary and I were buying our own home, a place fit for us and our twin Mercedes. I was doing game scripts, for the hottest interactive games in the country. Mary was riding high as an advertising account executive in her father’s company. My mother was an upscale all-American housewife. All pre-recession. Now, all regression. “Mom, do you miss your house, your life with dad? Do you ever want to wake up and find this shabby life is just a nightmare?” She looks at me, drops the cheerful crap. Her eyes are hard and cold as stones. “No. That other life was the dream, wrapped in a cocoon of things and meaningless bullshit. There was little reality in it Nicodemus. We’re now coming face-to-face with the bare bones of reality, food, clothing, shelter, companionship.” She reaches across the table, squeezes my chin in her hand, leans into me. “We will find our way. We will find our true selves. Adversity will make us real.” Slowly the intensity of her gaze diminishes, she reluctantly releases my chin. It’s like a super-hot fire went out, and our rooms are now cool. ## “Nick, did you see your mail from your sister?” I’ve washed the dishes and cleaned up. She’s in her bedroom. I’m making up my bed on the couch. I look under the brown envelops and find the card envelope. I’m so tired. I can hear the rain, and I want the day to end. I want to sleep for a week. Somehow, I find the energy to open the card, a birthday card, for a birthday a month away. The check falls out and flutters to the floor. “Mom! Mom!” She dashes into the room tying her red robe. “What—“ “One-thousand dollars. Naomi sent us a grand.” I grab my mother around the waist and swing her around. “Let me see.” She snatches the check from me. “Wow! Naomi just brought us another month. I love my daughter.” She gives me a big hug. “And my son.” She flies into the kitchen, pulls a chair up to the fridge, stands on the chair and reaches into the cabinet over the fridge. She brings out a blue cloth sack and pulls the bottle of Crown Royal whiskey out of the bag like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I help her down. “I was hiding this from me. Hoping for something to celebrate.” Her smile lights up the room. I grab two glasses. She makes the toast. “To family, especially to my kids.” ## We’re sitting on the couch, looking at old photo albums, half the bottle gone. “Look, you and Naomi holding hands at the beach. Aahh, so cute. Look at you two.” I lean over and see, see down the gap in her robe. I struggle to look away, back to the pictures. The vision of those twin mounds and dark nipples is in my mind. I can’t shake it. “Hey, Nicodemus, are you OK? You look—“ “I’m OK. Just too much to drink. I think.” I lean down away from her and pick up another photo album from the floor, and glimpse between her thighs, a flash of white, flashing bright, winking. As I set up, too quickly, pictures fall from the album. I catch them before they fall to the floor before I have to look, look down there again. “Here, look, look you and Naomi—what are you looking at there? Let me see.” It’s her. I’m looking at her, a younger her, on the beach, in the surf, leaning into the camera, breasts bursting out of her top, a glorious smile, she’s beautiful, stunning. “Let me see. She tries to snatch the picture from me; the robe falls open a little more, she’s leaning into me, bringing them up to me to my mouth. I can’t look away. I’m salivating, my dick is as hard as steel. I can’t breathe. She sees. Sees in a glance. Sees me for what I am. For what I need. I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the revulsion, anger, hatred, shame on her face, in her eyes. I squeeze back the tears. Open my mouth to apologize, blame the booze, plea insanity. The nipple in my mouth is as hard as a stone and as sweet as honey, as wonderful as mother’s milk. Home, home I’m home, at last. “Nicodemus, it will be alright, baby. Just finding our true selves, just being us, at last.” She takes me in her arms, again and again.
Bio: Fred Foote is the author of the short story collection, For the Sake of Soul.