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My Mother’s Pillow
by Leslie Greffenius

My father was still talking as I waded across the floor to my mother’s side of their bed and let myself down onto it carefully – he hated haste. At sixteen, I knew better than to try blocking the sound of his voice with my fingers. He’d roar if I did, vocal cords bug-eyed in his throat. So I sank my face into my mother’s pillow, scrunching it up with my arms.

She’d been declared dead, of cardiac arrest, two weeks earlier. From the pillow, I could still catch a faint scent of her skin mingled with the fragrance of her shampoo.             

The important announcement for which dad had summoned me in: He was now having sex with Tracey, the twenty-something waitress he knew from a restaurant he and mom used to go to together. A desperate man, he had a right to comfort himself however he could, he said. I should be happy for him.

“Well?” he asked, his arms folded across his chest. “Will you do it right away, please?”

“Do what?”

He answered me slowly, as though addressing a person of just slightly below normal intelligence.

“Will you please find a friend’s house to sleep over at tonight?” He scratched the tip of his nose. “Tracey’d be shy if you were here, too.”

Tracey couldn’t have been on my mother’s pillow yet; it would smell different if she had. My only hope was to sneak it out of this room and into mine before such a thing could happen. 

Leslie: I am a writer at work on my first novel, Encore. I have attended masters' level classes in fiction and the novel at Grub Street, a creative writing center in Boston. My work has appeared in the Iowa Law Review and The Harvard Crimson.  Contact Leslie.