I received a postcard from my mother the other day. It was undated, which was a shame, since my mother died five years ago. The front of the postcard was of St. Peter’s in Venice. As far as I’m aware, my mother had never visited Venice, or anywhere in Italy, for that matter. It opened, “Dear Son,”. My mother never referred to me as Son, always as Peter, even after everybody else started calling me Pete. After the salutation, it said, “It’s even more beautiful than I’d imagined.” I don’t remember my mother ever finding beauty in anything, and certainly not churches. It continued, “Your father seems to be having a wonderful time, in spite of himself.” My stepfather died about twenty-five years ago, and my mother never referred to him as my father, only by his name. My real father died in 1958, when I was two. The message ended, “Next stop, Rome! Love, Mom.” I was getting really freaked out by the postcard until I looked at the right side and noticed that the name of the addressee differed from mine by two letters, and the address differed by one digit.
A man with an awful comb-over accosted me on the street. “Excuse me, sir,” he said, “do you have a few minutes to discuss eternity?”
“You can’t discuss eternity in a few minutes,” I told him, “but if you have an hour or two to spare, I could discuss a few minutes with you.”
Just then, a gust of wind blew his comb-over to one side. The man turned red as a beet. “I blame you,” he said, his voice cracking, eyes shooting daggers.
“Fair enough,” I said. “Let me try to make it up to you.”
“When did you start losing your hair?” I asked.
“About twenty years ago. Why?”
“Does that seem like a long time or a short time.”
“I’ve never thought about it.”
“What were you planning on telling me about eternity?”
At that, he started crying. Bawling like a baby. Then he threw himself in front of an oncoming automobile.
No good ever came of a comb-over, I told myself, as I hurried away.
One of the Family
As I was out for my morning walk, I saw a woman walking her dog outside the park, a Jack Russell. The dog was wearing a mask over its nose and mouth, and it didn’t look too happy. Not sad, not depressed, not like one of those Sarah MacLachlan tug-at-your-heartstrings abused dogs on TV, just pissed off. I could see it in the dog’s eyes, that quizzical “What the fuck’s this thing doing on my face” look. What was the thing doing on the dog’s face? I’ve read that there have been rare, isolated cases of pets becoming sick from close contact with their owners, but we’re talking really low risk. And outdoors? Was this going too far?
I asked the woman, “Are you concerned that the dog might catch the virus?”
“Not especially,” she said. “We just don’t want him to feel left out. Jasper is one of the family.”
I nodded politely. Then she took a few steps behind me, knelt down, pulled her own mask down, and sniffed my ass.
A longtime Friend of the Macabre, Peter Cherches' new short prose collection, Whistler's Mother's Son, available now!