Still Life--(Excerpt)

"Mama says I'm getting a sex change," Gene begins, spitting words into the receiver. "I'm gonna be a hermaphrodite. She says it'll make me more attractive, more salable. She read about some showgirl on the strip who had it done. I saw her picture. You can hardly tell. She had on a bathing suit and white hair. Mama says she's got a headlining act and a Mafia guy to prove it. She looked real nice, too. Mama read the words under the picture to me: 'Having it all.' Money's all we need, Mama says. Tonight, when she services the slots, she's gonna pick the lock on the money box. I told you they won't give her the key. Someone follows her around to empty it. She thinks it's because she has a prison record. Says she's gonna sue them for hearsay, for eavesdropping when she told a friend about her record. That's if my cut doesn't work. Mama's sure it will, though. Just one cut and BAM! We're going to the doctor tomorrow. She says it won't hurt much. So I won't be over tomorrow. Frances? Are you there? I can't hear you breathing."


Frances hangs up the phone and grabs her macramé bag, the only one she has, the one with her favorite picture in it. She likes Gene but hates talking on the telephone: the receiver hurts her ear and his bodiless voice scares her. The smoke detector goes off in the kitchen where her mother is baking her another birthday cake, lemon-lime, the second one this year. Decorations still hang in the dining room from yesterday's party: paper streamers and deflated balloons. The balloons are puckered and sun bleached, but her mother, as always, will untie the knots and reinflate them. She has given Frances twice as many birthday parties as her eighteen years warrant, confusing her. And what of the other things, Frances wonders, the twin cakes stacked high, a Leaning Tower over in the corner, and the matching gift boxes, trinkets still unopened?

Copyright © Michael Mastrofrancesco 1996

Appeared in The Graduate Review

Poetry Sample
Fiction Sample
Still Life
Campfire Girl