short story – The Moms
THE MOMS copyright2010 Gregory White
I felt sorry for, and slightly angry with, the five women that came to sit in my coffee shop every Thursday afternoon. They always arrived at four o’clock, after signing in their daughters for the hour-long dance class next door. Their drink orders were diverse: Columbian coffee, decaff coffee, peppermint tea, green tea and bottled water. This appeared to be the only thing that distinguished their personalities. As usual, they sipped and stirred before settling into their routine conversations, little pink words with lace around the edges.
“I bought my Sarah the most adorable backpack the other day. You know she’s a Tinkerbelle freak. Everything Tink, so when we saw it she just had to have it,” Columbian Coffee said.
Peppermint Tea clinked her spoon. “Anna is all about lime green these days; everything has to be bright, lime green. She wanted her room painted lime green but her father said no. I bought the paint yesterday so we’re going to work on talking Dad into it over the weekend.”
“I’ve been searching all over for polka-dot notebooks,” said Bottled Water. “But I just can’t seem to find them anywhere. Darlene is just going to have a fit if I can’t find her polka-dots. Have any of you seen them anywhere? Well, if you do, buy them and I’ll pay you back.”
I stared at them the same way I always did, like plain robins that have landed among the flamingos at the zoo. I wondered if any of these women had ever read a book that didn’t begin with ‘Once Upon a Time’ or contained the phrase ‘He wrapped his muscle-bound arms around her bodice’. I sighed and imagined the ghost of Gertrude Stein lingering beside their table and shaking her transparent head as she listened to tales of mini-vans and soccer games, G-rated DVDs, pencil boxes and which end of the school to pick up and drop off. Cookie sales were down this past year. Little Tiffany is failing English and its all that Mrs. Hoffman’s fault; they really ought to fire her. IPod Shuffles and ballet lessons, yoga for kids, which Bible school was best, panties on sale at Macy’s and auditions for the school play.
As I handed Mrs. Decaff the decanter of skim milk she asked for, the dead silence told me that my “You bitches are driving me crazy,” actually came out of my mouth. Usually, it just bounced around my head for an hour each Thursday.
Green Tea looked up at me. “What did you say?”
I took one step back. “Nothing. Never mind. Sorry.” I wanted to take the skim milk and escape into the back room until they were gone.
“No. What did you say?” Green Tea asked again. “Did you say what I think you said?”
I set the decanter down, untied my apron and placed it on the counter. I put both hands on my hips and took a deep breath. “I said, you bitches are driving me crazy!”
Green Tea held up the palm of her hand to the group in a way that said, I’ll handle this. “You want to tell us what you mean before I ask to see the manager?” She leaned back. The rest of the mothers had crossed arms and darted eyebrows. Bottled Water looked for her keys.
Then, out it came. I didn’t hold anything back. “Every week I think to myself, here these women sit with a whole hour to themselves. They have a whole hour of adult time without their kids and the only thing they can find to talk about is notebooks and where to buy the best soccer shoes! And I wonder, did giving birth make them lose their brains? Does amniotic fluid cause the deterioration of dreams? Don’t they have anything real to say to each other?” I leaned on the back on a chair and looked at them directly. “Do any of you have an opinion on the evening news or go to parties where grown-ups talk about grown-up things? You know, where you sip on wine instead of blow up balloons? Are any of you, for any reason, interested in something that is just for you? I don’t care what it is. A creative writing course? A painting class? A pottery class? Is there anything at all that you could do that would make you just a little bit more interesting?” I dropped my hands to my sides. Everything I had been thinking had surfaced and landed in the middle of what I referred to as ‘The Mom Table’.
“Are you finished?” Green Tea asked.
“I guess so. Yeah. I’m finished.”
“Now, I would like to see your manager.” She pinched her lips together and licked her teeth, confident that I was going to be fired.
“Yeah, get your manager out here!” screamed Columbian Coffee. “You can’t talk to us like that! Who do you think you are?”
I tied my apron behind my back. “Actually, I own this place. Now, what I would really like is for you all to leave. Your ticket is on me.”
Bottled Water found her keys and walked out the door.
“What? You can’t do that,” said Peppermint Tea.
“Sure I can.” I motioned for them to stand up. “Out. Get out. And don’t come back until you have something real to say.”
That was five weeks ago. The laptop campers who nurse a cup of coffee in exchange for the internet access have taken over the Mom table on Thursdays. The Moms started going to the tea shop around the corner. I saw their cars there. But I keep wishing that one of them would show up with her college course homework. I’d even settle for a stain of pottery clay on her jeans.