by T. L. Sherwood

I IGNORE MY daughter’s pleas after denying her request to leave our post-Covid variant #12 or #30/still cautious bubble to go out to a party. I automatically say no to parties like I’d been taught. My mother did it to me and I survived.

‘That is soooo unfair!’

‘I’ll have to check, but I think that’s the fifth unfair thing this week and it’s only Tuesday.’ I notice the time at the bottom of the screen and start saving files. ‘I’m ordering burgers. Do you want cheese?’

She rolls her eyes and takes a self-pity slump backwards into the cushions of the couch/daybed/night bed/place I’d have sex if I ever find time—or another warm human being—for it again. My only daughter’s sigh is followed by a whine. ‘I hate cheese! It’s like you don’t know me at all.’

‘Of course I do. Now, what’s your first name again?’

‘That isn’t funny.’

‘It is a little bit.’ I close the laptop and stand to diffuse tension. ‘Remind me to look up the Patron Saint of Eyesight.’ I stretch my arms over my head. ‘I need to know who to start praying to.’

‘God! I wish I’d never been born!’ My daughter curls and kicks at the porcelain lamp determined to barely miss it.

I’d invoke a father threat, but there is none. Well, there is a father, but he’s no threat. I stand in front of her. My left hand cups my right elbow and my right hand, the left. I blink hard and nod my head. ‘Poof. There. You’re an abortion.’ Holding back a grin of genie cleverness, I wait.

‘Everything is a joke to you.’ She stands and drags her feet down the hallway.

It’s hysterical, hearing my words coming out of her mouth—until I parrot my mother’s line, ‘No, it’s not.’

Tears soften the rebuttal. ‘Is too!’

‘Hark. What do I hear? Is that the voice of abortion?’

Turning into her room, she bellows, ‘That’s sick!’ before slamming the door.

I can’t remember my mother’s exact wording. Something about wanting more for me than to be fingered at an unsupervised party. I leave that unsaid.

After the food arrives, I call out, ‘Food delivery for aborted baby.’

‘Stop it.’ She comes out, sits across from me at the end of my worktable.

‘I’ve always been interested in the subject of reincarnation. You were aborted, so tell me, did you circle back to the end of the line or did you get upgraded to the very next birth?’

‘Cut it out, Mom.’

‘I’m serious.’ I grab two bottles of water and hand her one. ‘I wonder what happens after you die. If there’s a heaven. Don’t you?’

She leans back, repeats my hands on opposite elbows stance, and with Barbara Eden finesse, she nods her head. ‘Poof! There. You’re a heart attack, go find out.’

Somewhere, somehow, I hear my mother’s applause for her granddaughter’s comedic timing; it blends into my own slow clapping.


Among other places, T. L. Sherwood’s work has appeared in New World Writing, Jellyfish Review, Elm Leaves Journal, Page & Spine, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. She lives in Springville, New York near Eighteen Mile Creek and blogs at: