by Francine Witte

But that’s not new. My best friend, Mo, says nothing’s new, not the burn-up sun, or the wind-swish trees. Everything’s been the same since it all banged apart. Mo’s the only one who sees any good at all in Ricky Watson, and she will tell me for a full five minutes. Mo can’t say anything that isn’t an essay, (it’s why she does so good in English class.) Ms. Tyler will even say, ‘Oh c’mon, Maureen, give someone else a chance.’ Mo doesn’t see the point of that—if a thing is right, it’s right, is all. So, it’s no surprise that when I begin to cry about Ricky Watson and how completely gone he is, Mo finishes her speech about him, looks at me square and says, ‘Well, let’s go get him back.’

I tell Mo she’s crazy, which is not a thing that will stick—Mo likes being crazy, thinks it’s kind of exotic. My mom pops in, big Aqua Net do, and asks, ‘What would you two lovelies like for supper?’ Mo’s pop is out of work again, and she can eat here all she wants, is what Mom has been known to say. Mo just answers, ‘Whatever’s good, Mrs. June.’ I’m June, by the way, so you know.

Mo says that whatever we have for supper, we can pretend it’s something else. We can put on a couple of berets and pretend we are in Paris like the Van Gogh painting we saw in art class. I am thinking we are too old for this kind of pretending but don’t say so what with Mo’s pop being out of work and how that’s really enough of a thing.

I’ve also been thinking that Mo wants me back with Ricky Watson more than I want me back with Ricky Watson. After the way he comes and goes, I’m tempted to tell her to forget it. Mom serves us casserole for supper which I personally hate because it’s nothing but a lot of foods pushed together rather then one whole thing like a hamburger you can depend on. Mom says casserole is a good way to stretch a food dollar. Mo scarfs it down and says it was, ‘Magnifique, Mrs. June.’

After supper, we go to my room to write Ricky Watson a letter. Mo says everyone texts and IMs and how delicious would it be for Ricky Watson to find this in his mailbox? We can even scent it with Mom’s eau de cologne, she says. I say okay, and even let Mo write the letter because she’s so good with essays and all.

Later that week, when Ricky Watson calls just like Mo said he would, I am not as happy as you might think. Mom calls me aside ‘without Maureen,’ she says. Once alone she says maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to let Maureen write that letter to Ricky Watson. I’m thinking it’s just because Mom doesn’t like Ricky Watson much, but to my surprise it’s not that at all.

‘As you get older, June, you are going to want to do more on your own.’  She says if I had let things be with Ricky Watson, he probably would have come back his own self, but now I can never be sure. And I’m thinking that maybe Mom is right.

That night at supper, I tell Mo I’m not gonna be around too much this week because I’m back with Ricky Watson now. Mom nods her approval behind Mo who looks deep into her casserole plate. Mom assures Mo that she can eat here as much as she wants, June or no. Mo sits up and says oh that’s okay and by the way, she forgot to tell us but her pop got another job.

‘Well,’ Mom says, ‘I’m glad to hear about your father, but you are welcome anytime.’ I tell her yes, that’s right, because after all, she’s family now. The word family is like a piece of random hot dog or tuna or whatever Mom put in the casserole. I taste it but it washes down my throat kind of quick. I tell Mo that in her honor we can have our dessert in Paris. ‘If you like,’ I tell her, ‘we can even wear our berets.’


Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and The Theory of Flesh (Kelsay Books) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She is an associate poetry editor for Pidgeonholes. Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) was published by ELJ Editions in September, 2021. She lives in NYC.