I watch Mama lift the stiff shaft of white delphinium into the light. The bulb over the sink is naked. She is naked, too, except for the white scuffs on her small feet.

“Mama,” I whisper.

She dances across the kitchen floor. Glides actually.

“Mama,” I whisper again, my lips barely rubbing against each other.

I wish my friend Solly hadn’t come tonight. I’d forgotten that it was July 11th when I invited him. Daddy left four years ago today, right after we’d picked eight stalks of delphinium. One for each year Daddy and Mama had been married. One for each year I had been alive. One for each year, Mama says, Daddy stripped her bare and wore her heat to a cool flat line so she couldn’t wear that red taffeta dress with the beaded semicircles tracing the tops of her boobs anymore.

Mama only talks about boobs on July 11th. All the other days, Mama sings me breakfast stories with white toast and Welch’s grape jelly and a shirt buttoned up almost to her freckled neck.

I hope Solly won’t hear naked Mama pushing her plastic soles along the linoleum. Or see naked Mama balancing on the chair trying to screw the white delphinium against the hot bulb, singing like Saffire about a good man to do her up good.

“Mama,” I whisper. “I love you.”

She waves. The scent of burning petals climbs through the metal holes of the screen door and races after me.

 

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