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  • Jimmy Broccoli

The Child and The Mother

It’s a hotter than usual day in mid-June

and I’m watching the child blow bubbles

through the red, plastic wand with a hole in the middle

bubbles fill the air and I watch their multi-colored (as the light reflects) beauty as they float through the air (and then pop)

The child is giggling, and I cannot help but smile

We’re in the front on the porch – I don’t live here, but I used to

And now the child, he’s six, is running around

with the dog – the dog has joined the family since my departure

The dog is super cute and impossible not to love

and the child loves the dog, and they are now running around the yard together

The mother sits near me drinking a beer that must be quickly becoming warm –

She never drank very much or very quickly, as I used to -

she’s more about morning smoothies and a side of fruits or vegetables (lightly and sensibly seasoned) at every meal –

I used to be more into getting sloppy drunk and making a fucking asshole of myself when company was over (I’m sober 4 years) –

she, the mother, sits quietly near me – and I know her hate for me disappeared long ago – but we’re still (noticeably) a few feet apart on the cement porch

“How’s Dan?”, she asks, and I tell her he’s doing okay

got a new job or a promotion recently – not sure which –

The mother has never met Dan –

And Dan hates that I come over here every two weeks –

and I don’t miss a visit – ever – that never happens –

and the child is now running through the sprinklers and laughing

The dog runs up to me for pets and hugs – he’s a bit wet (from the sprinklers) – but I don’t mind

a damp dog reminds me of better days – happier times

The child looks at me sideways and brings me the firetruck I bought him a couple of months ago –

The siren works (I make it a point to always bring batteries with me for visits) and the child likes to press the button over and over (annoying the mother) –

and I think it’s funny and cute

- his blue eyes become electric sapphires when he smiles, like mine do – just like mine do

“How’s Ted (?)”, I ask the mother and she nods her head with a mouthful of beer –

Then says (after swallowing) “he’s good. He’s at the grocery and then to see a movie with a friend”

“Okay”, I reply. “Enough with the siren”, says the mother suddenly – but not scornfully – more worn-out than anything else –

the child puts the firetruck by the big tree in the yard and leaves it

“He’s big”, I observe, and the mother nods her head in agreement –

“He don’t stay in clothes for long”, she replies

I reach into my pocket and hand her 2 large bills –

“thanks for allowing me to come over – I know it’s not always easy for you” –

the mother nods her head and looks at me for the first time since my arrival –

“it’s okay. You’re a good man – you weren’t always a good man – but you are now. I’m glad you continue to visit” –

the child sits quietly a few feet from the mother and me

the child asks the mother for a popsicle and the mother gets it for him –

the child smiles at me and I immediately (and automatically) smile back –

the child gives me a hug – “thank you for the bouncy ball” (the gift I brought him today). I tell the child “You’re welcome”.

The child watches me as I get into my truck –

“See you in two weeks?”, I ask the mother and she nods at me and slightly smiles –

“you’ve got to stop spoiling that kid – he has too many toys as it is” –

“a boy can never have too many toys”, I reply, and her smile broadens –

“yeah, I thought you’d say something like that”, she responds, the smile not leaving her face

“Until then…” – “Until then…”

The child waves at me as I back out of the freshly-paved driveway –

the child smiles and I smile back –

and I wait two blocks to break down to cry

I’m at the neighborhood park that once was mine –

but it is no longer

The child -

he thinks Ted is his daddy

and the child will never know who I am –

the child (his name is Stephen – though I do not say his name aloud) will never know

Photo: Jimmy Broccoli

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