My Mother Was a Girl
By Sheldon Kranz

part 2

He tried to sound matter of fact. "She had an awful lot to do. She said she'll call you this week." He knew he sounded apologetic and he felt himself growing angry. Besides, he hated lying. What May had really said was, "I don't mind you going to see your mother, but I simply don't want to go. We can't get along, so why make trouble?" 

She was right, of course, but still she could have come with him for an hour to avoid this. He heard the voices of some people who were standing in front of the apartment house. A girl laughed. 

"I don't know what she's so busy about," his mother said. "She hasn't any children to look after. What is she so busy about?" 

"How should I know," Robert said, and knew it was the wrong thing to say. 

His mother sat up straighter in her chair. "How should you know?" she repeated. "Well, please tell me who should?" 

"Look," he said. "Don't worry about May." 

"I'm not worried. I'm just asking a question. Is there any law against that?" She was using that cold, polite tone which always infuriated him. 

"What are you so concerned about May all of a sudden?" he demanded. "She's fine. She just couldn't make it." 

"You needn't shout," his mother said. "If May can't find time to come over, you needn't shout at me." She looked less tired now than when he had come in. The people in front of the house had gone inside. 

He waited a moment, and then he said carefully, "Have you heard from Harry?" Harry was his older brother who lived in Chicago. He was a successful insurance man, and it was one of his mother's favorite topics. 

She immediately went into a detailed account of Harry's last letter. Robert smoked and only half listened. Harry was the good son. Wrote every week. Sent presents, too, at the right times. It was easy being a good son in Chicago. Sometimes he wished he and May lived in California. The warm September night was tempting through the open windows. It was dark and quiet, and he wished he could just get into his car and drive somewhere. His mother went on talking about Harry, and he nodded, hoping she would be in a better mood by the time she finished. 

Harry writes you haven't answered his last letter," she said. "Why haven't you answered it?" 

"I'll answer it this week, " Robert said. "I've been busy." 

"Everyone's busy in your house. You don't seem to have time for anything." His mother shifted restlessly in her chair. "Seems to me you can find a few minutes to write to your brother." 

"You're right, " he said. "You're absolutely right." 

"I shouldn't have to tell you these things. What are you so busy about?" 

"I work," he said. "I work hard. Being in the automobile business is a full-time job." 

"You do look tired." She examined his face critically. "Have you lost weight? You can't afford to lose weight with your height." 

"I'm fine," he said. "Everything is fine, I just don't have time for a lengthy correspondence with my brother." 

"May should give you vitamins." 

"Leave May alone. She feeds me fine. She's a good cook. " 

"You still look thin to me," his mother said. 

"So what do you want me to do," he demanded. "Buy a coffin?" No matter how hard he tried, it always came out wrong. 

His mother's eyes widened. He stretched his long legs out defiantly to cover his embarrassment. The warm night breeze came into the room. A car honked raucously. 

"What kind of a way is that to talk to me?" she asked. "What kind of a way is that to talk to your mother?" 

How many times had this happened in the past? How many more times would they go through these scenes? She was still using the same words she had used when he was twelve. Here he was thirty-three and married, and she was still at it. And he hadn't learned yet how to be with 'her. 

"If you buy any coffins," she was saying, "you'll he buying mine. Or perhaps you won't have time for that, either. You don't have to come here and do me any favors. You show up once a week and think that's enough. You sit and look at your watch, and you think you're doing someone a big favor. If Harry were here, things would be different, believe me." 

He stared at her thin, angry face, and he hated this woman who nagged and accused, and made him go home and fight with May. Every time he came back from his mother's he had trouble. He hated her for being able to confuse him and make him lose his temper. 

"If Harry were in New York, I wouldn't be alone. I wouldn't have to sit here alone and wait for you to visit me." 

The pain he felt made him shout, "Then go live in Chicago! If Harry is such a good son, then let him send you the money and go live with him." 

He stood up and pulled on his jacket. "Every time it's the same thing. You're never happy unless you have a fight." 

His mother looked very small in the overstuffed chair. 

"I'm going home," he shouted, "to a little peace and quiet." He strode out of the room and slammed the front door as he left. 


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