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My Son, My Son
About the Author: Kathleen Gerard writes across genres. Her short stories have been widely published in magazines, journals and anthologies and have been awarded and nominated for many prizes including The Saturday Evening Post "Great American Fiction" Prize, Short Story America and The Mark Twain House Humor Prize.

It’s amazing how one trip downtown to fetch one measly letter can spoil a person’s whole week.  And that’s exactly what happened. The minute I pulled in front of the Towanda Falls Post Office, I was more than a little peeved to find a shiny, new, four-by-four angled over the lines, taking up two whole parking spaces—including the handicapped one. Why, that slick, gas-guzzling SUV had a dealership price sticker still slapped on the passenger’s side window, a big red bow festooned over the front grill and a shadow looming around the rearview mirror.

The nerve, I sneered, forced to keep driving round and round that parking lot, looking for an empty space. I finally just gave up and parked in no man’s land on the far side of the lot. Once I got out of our old Ford pickup, my grumbled protest was as loud and creaky as the sound of my slamming the rusty door closed.

I hung my purse over my walker and, as I hobbled across the parking lot, I squinted my eyes, trying to get a better look at that rudely parked vehicular monstrosity. There was something inside, looped over the rearview. It was too broad a shadow to be a set of Holy Rosary Beads. And it wasn’t square-shaped enough to be a couple of fuzzy dice. By the time I cupped my hands around my face and saw my fed-up breath fogging up the driver’s side pane of dark, tinted glass, my eyes deciphered the shadow as a pair of itty-bitty baby booties hanging like two stubby links of sausage like you’d see down at the butcher shop.

“I’m here to collect a registered letter that needs my John Hancock,” I announced, slapping down the notification card left in my mailbox the day before and pushing it across the counter toward the poker-face of Prunella Privett. “And while you’re at it, you mind telling me who’s got the brass ones, hogging up two parking spaces out there?”

“You mean that new Dodge Durango?” Prunella blushed. She tucked in a few stray gray curls that had worked themselves free from her ponytail. “Ain’t she a beauty? My Whitton just bought her for me and the mister.”

“Whit? Your Whitton? He bought you that?” I flung my thumb over my shoulder, in the direction of the parking lot.

“Coralee, I’ll have you know that my boy goes by Whitton-Esquire these days.” As Prunella crossed her arms against her chest—covering up the coffee-stained eagle on the pocket of her postal uniform—I jerked my head in the direction hers was now pointing. Tacked up on the wall next to all The Wanted posters was a mini-billboard donning a duded-up image of Prunella’s son, Whitton Privett—Attorney-at-Law. He was wearing a fancy suit with sparkly cufflinks. He was smiling, showing off his well-tended teeth like a member of the Osmond family. In big letters beneath his pictures was printed his phone number and a slogan that read: If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.

“My Whitton just hung out his own shingle up in Cripple Creek City—won his first big case at the State Court House,” Prunella said. “He took all his hard-earned money and bought me and Whitton Senior those new wheels.”

“Must’ve been some kind of settlement,” I mumbled.

Why, my son can’t even afford to buy me a Matchbox truck!

“But what’s up with those baby booties, Prunella? Did Whitton give you a grandchild too?”

“Oh, no—but aren’t they the cutest?” The sound of Prunella’s laugh was like a small bird chirping. “The mister and I didn’t have money for a car when Whitton was just a wee-thing thirty-seven years ago. So, I was never able to drive around flaunting his baby shoes.” Prunella splayed a well-manicured hand over her heart. “Oh, but my son, he is such a doll. He thought it was high time his momma finally get her due. I mean, how sweet is that—a new car with his old baby booties? Oh, every night, I get down on my knees and thank the Good Lord for giving me a son like Whitton …”

The way Prunella was fawning made me want to crinkle up my face like I had just licked an envelope with some very foul-tasting glue.

“… So, tell me, Coralee,” Prunella said, slipping on her bifocals and rummaging through a whole stack of mail in search of my letter, “how are things by you? How’s your boy doing?”

This story appears in our MAY 2024 Issue
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