I have been a fan of J. Scott Smith’s work since I first read it, and this story will show you why. Originally published in 2009 in a now defunct electronic journal (Pocket Review), “Lynlee Floats” is published here to rescue it from cyberspace obscurity. J. Scott Smith is a musician and writer from Wilmette, IL, and has published nonfiction articles and stories and is at work on a novel.
Lynlee floats on her back in the club pool, the turquoise water set like a jewel in the dun-colored earth that extends out beyond the pool’s concrete perimeter. Her sun-streaked hair ripples like something alive as she takes a backward stroke. Only in the still water have her gangly, pre-teen limbs not lost their grace.
The pool is quiet. Lynlee, Mama, a couple of young mothers with infants splashing in the shallow end. The July heat is such that not much of anyone wants to be out, and the lukewarm water is small attraction. But it’s a dry heat, Daddy says. Not like, say, Galveston. Houston.
Lynlee closes her eyes, sinks. Underwater, she looks up at the white disc of sun, the sky like a crackled china blue bowl. She sees her mother’s wavery form, a book open on her knees. Lynlee swims to the pool’s edge, blinks water from her eyes.
Mama reclines on one of the fancy metal lounge chairs, her skin browned to a milky chocolate, her face half obscured under enormous dark glasses. Her soft blonde pageboy shows no sign of wilting in the heat. Her legs are toned and smooth, breasts still high and firm in the maillot cut bathing suit. She could get away with wearing a bikini, like Ursula Andress in that Bond movie.
She’s had sex. Lynlee knows this because last Saturday night, Mama and Daddy out to dinner in Big Spring, she took from Daddy’s bedside table the book with the yellow cover, Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask, and read, sitting cross-legged on the white carpet by their gold velvet bedspread. She is sure now, beyond doubt, that babies come from sex, and Mama had her, didn’t she? Hunched there, she read frantically, listened for the sound of Daddy’s Lincoln, at once repulsed and thrilled. It’s the same feeling she gets on Sunday morning, bored in church, when she leafs through the pages of her illustrated red-letter King James Bible, and comes to the picture of Jesus hanging on the cross, his hair long and wavy, naked except for the soft cloth wrapped around his loins.
Loins. She likes that word. Loins. She whispers it to herself at night in the snug darkness of her room, her hands pressed between her thighs.
She pushes herself out of the pool, shoulders broadened from a million strokes through blue water. No need for a towel–the water evaporates so quickly in the dry air. Mama glances up as she flops into the chair beside her, and though Lynlee can’t see her wide, impassive eyes, she knows Mama watches everything. Mama says, Had enough?
Lynlee reclines on the chair and lies straight and still, lets the heat swarm over her. Her skin is almost as dark as Mama’s. And yes, she has had enough. The club’s a bore. But she’s sure Mama has had enough, too, so just to be contrary she says, Not yet.
Fortunately, Daddy waves from the pool house. He ambles, tall and loose-limbed and grinning, to where they sit. He carries a Coors can, and smells of it, sweet and sour. He sits beside her, his soft knit shirt damp under the arms, his slacks whisper against her leg. How’d you shoot? Lynlee asks, and can’t help the impatient look she shoots at Mama. Questions like that are supposed to be her job.
Mama glances up, silent, before slipping a grocery store receipt into Madame Bovary to hold her place.
Thirty-eight, he says, shrugs. Back nine. Not bad. He sips from his beer can. Let’s get lunch.
In the ladies’ lounge Lynlee and Mama change—Mama into the yellow shift that sets off her tan, Lynlee into striped shorts and a t-shirt, casual but neat enough for the club grill, which is host to the handful of Saturday golfers and tennis players.
Cheeseburgers, Betty, Daddy says to the waitress. Lynlee likes Betty, who always remembers how she likes her Seven-Up with cherry syrup. She is at least sixty-two, and scrawny, but you’d never know that, to see the look on Daddy’s face when he says Cheeseburgers, Betty, and the usual to drink. Daddy has bourbon on the rocks while Mama has a vodka tonic. He is talkative, turning his captain’s chair this way and that to say, Melvin, that was a spectacular shot on the 13th hole. Just like Trevino. Or, to Mr. Carr, his boss at the bank, Well, now, tell me, Jim, how do you think Landry and the Cowboys are going to do this year? He grins and nods at the ladies in their tennis whites. Mama nibbles at her burger and feigns interest in his little exchanges. Lynlee knows that when Daddy orders a second round of drinks Mama will stop pretending to care. She will smoke a Newport and drink, while her eyes shift coolly around the room, and smile faintly here and there.
And then Daddy says, Don’t look now—you’ll never believe who just walked in. Lynlee turns in her seat, and there, framed in the wide doorway, is a woman with smooth dark hair and a turquoise paisley halter top, her sleek, cocoa shoulders without a single tan line. She glances in their direction, and Lynlee stares back, but the woman looks away, a cigarette smoking between her shell pink fingers. Lynlee stares as the woman heaves a small sigh and glides to the bar, taps her cigarette against the glass ashtray lip. She casts her dark-fringed eyes around the room, but doesn’t seem to see the faces that have shifted their gaze to her. And as she watches, Lynlee is struck by the familiarity of her gestures, her little sighs.
Patsy Carver, Daddy says, and his eyebrows lift with the corners of his mouth. Lynlee says, Who? She looks to Mama, expecting Mama’s familiar, unruffled expression, but that’s not what she gets. Mama has stiffened in her chair. Lynlee can sense it. She is erect and still, her face gone blank. The room is a little quieter, the women taking in Patsy’s elephant-ear pants, her big silver earrings and bracelets. The men, too, especially Daddy, who leans to Mama and says, She’s holding up great. And since Daddy is used to Mama’s silence, it’s up to Lynlee to notice how she has paled around the lips, that her cigarette trembles in her fingers. Daddy’s eyes are still on Patsy Carver.
Patsy, Daddy says, and waves to her—Join us.
Mama whispers, Travis, I wish you wouldn’t—
But Patsy Carver returns Daddy’s wave, a small, wry smile lifting her frosted pink lips. Daddy sits tall and easy, the knit shirt smooth over his broad, relaxed shoulders. People watch Patsy approach their table, settle herself smoothly in the fourth chair, and Lynlee’s cheeks are hot, because just about every eye in the room is on them. She takes in Patsy Carver’s perfect make-up, her dark eyes with liner and lashes so thick they might be false.
Patsy says, How are you, Travis, Gwen? And this little thing . . .
Lynlee, Mama says, clears her throat. It’s been a long time.
You were just a baby . . . so grown up, Patsy says, and favors Lynlee with a curiously grim smile that shows lots of blunt white teeth.
Are you in town long? Daddy says. I see your mother at church, sometimes at the bank. Betty—Chivas on the rocks for Mrs. Carver.
You remembered, Patsy sighs. Not long. Her voice is husky, the drawl not so pronounced. Just another week. I bought a place in Dallas, she says. Highland Park. I’m moving the old lady up with me.
So you’re leaving in a week, Mama says.
Your mother leave Lubbock County? Daddy laughs. I can’t believe that.
Patsy barely glances Mama’s way, instead turns her attention to Daddy. Oh, Travis, she smiles, that strange, joyless smile. Things change. We move on.
She leans toward him, sips her drink, touches the sleeve of his sport shirt with one long, manicured finger as she says, Though I will miss all the good-looking men around here, her eyes on him and only him.
Lynlee shifts uncomfortably, re-arranges the arms and legs that have lately become too long and unwieldy. She gives Mama a worried little glance, but Mama just sips her vodka, watches Daddy monopolize the willing Patsy Carver, as if she’s vaguely pleased with the turn of things. But in the lean place along her jaw there is a twitch, as if in some deeper place, pushing up from under the boredom, there is an empty hunger. Lynlee knows that look. It, like Patsy Carver’s sigh, is familiar and disturbing.
And besides that, she’s just about had it with the way Patsy Carver is so all over Daddy. She hunches over her empty plate, peeking when Daddy laughs, but otherwise too embarrassed to look up. People are still watching. She’d like to yank Patsy’s arm away when she casually brushes Daddy’s leg.
Mama, however, has ordered another drink, and she smiles, even laughs a little at the racy things Patsy says. She doesn’t seem to mind Patsy’s flirtation, or even particularly aware of it, though Lynlee’s sure it must be as obvious to everyone else in the room as it is to her.
Patsy does not eat, but drinks her scotch slowly, smokes menthols, like Mama. The room is almost empty by the time Mama says, We do have to get home, Travis.
Yes, Daddy says, and Lynlee sees his regret. But we’re having some people over on Saturday, he says. A little beer, a little bourbon. Come. It’ll be fun, won’t it, Gwen? All the old crowd.
Mama smiles and takes a long draw off her cigarette as she looks Patsy Carver directly in the eye. Do come, Patsy, she says.
Daddy sings along with Ray Price on the 8-Track as he drives them home out beyond the city-limits in the silver Lincoln Town Car. Lynlee squints against the sun-washed afternoon and inhales Mama’s cigarette smoke.
It’s a little awkward, I know, but we should be nice to her, Daddy says, and it seems he’ll say more, but Mama looks up at him sharply.
Travis, she says, and lays a hand on his arm. I didn’t want to have this little get-together anyway.
Who is she? Lynlee asks blandly, careful not to betray the accusations she’d like to hurl at Patsy Carver.
Daddy frowns, and Mama is occupied with her cigarette. She looks out at the scrub landscape as she answers, her tone too casual. She used to be married to Bruce Carver. You know. Carver Cadillac in Big Spring. They were divorced forever ago. You were just a baby.
Actually, Daddy says, you knew her pretty well, didn’t you, Gwen? Well, we knew them as a couple. Friends, really, he says. Until the divorce. What a mess. Someone had to leave town, and Bruce sure wasn’t going to leave his mama. So Patsy took off for Dallas. We haven’t seen her for years.
These days, Mama says, and it almost sounds as if her teeth are clenched, people are more tolerant. But ten years ago—
Daddy says, The Carvers were the first people we knew who got a divorce. Hell, he says, since then, it’s been the Lees, the Scotts, the Crowders.
Daddy catches Lynlee’s eye in the rearview mirror, laughs, says, Don’t you worry, baby. I’m not going anywhere, and neither is your mother.
Mama tosses her cigarette out the window.
Daddy squeezes Mama’s hand. He says, About the—get-together. It wouldn’t hurt you to be a little more social, honey.
Mama shrugs, her lips seal even tighter. Lynlee presses her knees together. She has witnessed the storms enough to sense the gathering clouds.
For Christ’s sake, Daddy goes on. Now that there’s no one else to talk to and Lynlee has given up filling the silence, he seems mildly irritated with Mama’s silence. The banking business depends on a good rapport with folks, he says.
Mama doesn’t answer, and he says no more until he wheels the Lincoln up the drive of the low, long, white brick ranch house, and removes his dark Ray-Bans. Why, Gwen? There’s a dozen women from good families who would love to be friends with you. Florence Mayfield, Doris Weider, Margaret Lattimer.
Mama thrusts open the car door, and the aggression in that motion is all that betrays how she feels. And what would I do with those women? she asks. Florence is a lush—I suppose we could meet for drinks at the club. Doris doesn’t have a brain—you should know that. You dated her in high school. And Margaret Lattimer—Mama pauses. I like Margaret. We have coffee occasionally.
Lynlee stands still beside her closed door, watches Mama and Daddy stare at each other across the car. Gwen, he says softly, try a little harder. Mr. Carr, some folks from the club. Please, he says, charming and wheedling, and Lynlee so wants Mama to say Yes, yes, Travis, I’ll try. She wants her to smile, a real smile that opens up from the center, shows her teeth.
But Mama says nothing at all. She shuts the car door and turns to the house. Her elbow is crooked and her straw purse swings from it. Her yellow linen high heels click against the concrete drive.
Daddy sighs, big and meaningful, folds his hands on the Lincoln’s top and rests his forehead on them.
Lynlee stands awkwardly between them. She wishes Daddy would call after Mama’s retreating back, but he won’t. Naptime, he says, and the two of them trail Mama through the garage, into the house, into the cool rooms with the drapes and shutters closed tight against the heat.
Early Thursday Mama and Lynlee drive into Lubbock. Lynlee wanders through the shopping center stores—the toy store, where the Barbies and baby dolls are suddenly boring, the drug store with so many shampoos and pimple creams, the little boutique that sells peace sign medallions and black light posters—while Mama has her hair done at the Hemphill Wells salon. When Mama is done they lunch at the coffee shop. Then Mama, in a generous mood, takes Lynlee to Marcus’ and lets her choose a white cotton shift with Indian beading at the neck and hem. Mama selects for herself a pair of loose-legged evening pants, black, and a black lace top. Lynlee sits in one of the spindly fitting room chairs and watches as Mama turns, peers over her shoulder, says, This would be perfect. Black is what really shows up a good tan, she says, and Lynlee is sorry she chose the white shift.
They stop at the supermarket and then the liquor store outside town to fill Daddy’s order, the long list of liquors and mixers and cherries and fancy toothpicks that are not sold anywhere else in the long stretch of dry counties. Lynlee naps as they drive home in Mama’s pale yellow El Dorado, and doesn’t waken until they are in the driveway with the stand of close pines, a windbreak to protect the deep yard with the pool and flagstone patio and wrought iron furniture. Beyond that, the flat plain extends to the horizon, broken only by the oil wells that pump with a dull rhythm, day and night.
Mama puts things away in the kitchen, the round steak in the Harvest Gold refrigerator and the Grape-Nuts in the oak cabinets. While she puts together a tuna casserole, Lynlee sits on the cut-velvet living-room sofa, peeks out the window, but there is no sign of the Lincoln. Mama comes, stands in the doorway, arms folded across her chest. She is blank-faced, a dishtowel slung over her shoulder. See him? She says.
Lynlee shrugs. She doesn’t speak, and when she glances around, Mama has stolen away. She hears her dial the phone, then, after a minute, hang it up.
At six forty-five Mama puts the casserole in the oven, and when it comes out at seven-fifteen, Daddy still isn’t home. Lynlee says, Do you think he’s working late?
Mama shrugs. Probably, she says.
The low sun blazes through the window as they clear the dishes, and Lynlee steals glances at Mama while she wipes the countertop. Mama frowns gently, a small furrow between her eyes, something she constantly cautions Lynlee about. Serene, she always says. Keep your brow serene, and you won’t wrinkle.
Lynlee, though, can see a tiny nest of wrinkles in which Mama’s robin’s-egg blue eyes are nestled.
Mama makes a fresh pot of Folgers and sits at the kitchen table reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover, sipping her sweet, creamy coffee. Lynlee watches McMillan and Wife when the phone rings.
She answers, and there is such a long beat of silence after her hello she moves to hang it up, then stops as she hears a voice: Gwen? the voice says, tentative.
No, Lynlee says. Who’s calling?
Another long silence, then, Pat. Patsy.
It is Mrs. Carver. The disgraced Mrs. Carver. Divorced and disgraced.
Is Gwen there? There is no mistaking the nervous tenor of her voice.
No. Lynlee lies glibly, automatically. She isn’t here. Are you calling about the party? she says, because Mrs. Carver seems to be dumbstruck.
No. Yes. About the party.
More silence, and by now Lynlee is convinced it means something.
Yes, Mrs. Carver says, finally. Just—tell her I’ll be there.
Lynlee rings off quickly, and when Mama appears in the doorway, arms crossed over her high breasts, she says, It was a wrong number.
Later, when Lynlee pokes her head in the kitchen door to say goodnight, Mama is sitting at the kitchen table, her hands folded on the open book, her brow serene.
The guests arrive in pairs and fours. Daddy stands at the pool bar, mixes drinks and drops in slices of lime or thin strips of lemon peel or the red-red cherries. Betty from the club circulates with trays of tiny cheese biscuits and raw vegetables and meatballs in barbecue sauce, because that’s Mr. Carr’s favorite. Soon the house and yard are full of adults, sitting at the tables around the pool, talking about adult things, drinking adult drinks. Something will happen. Adults can make things happen, Lynlee thinks, and a hot jealousy flares in her for all those things the adults can do and say and feel without consequence.
Mama in her black lace moves easily through the group. She stops by every guest just long enough to inquire after children, parents, to compliment a blouse or hairstyle, then presses on. Lynlee does as expected, makes the rounds in her white beaded dress, says the required polite hellos to the grown-ups who adjust their language and expressions until she passes. There is a momentary murmur of excitement when Patsy Carver arrives in beige silk, but it passes quickly. Lynlee amuses herself for some time observing Mrs. Carver, how she nurses her scotch, flips her dark hair over her shoulder, lets the cigarettes smoke away in her fingers. But even Patsy Carver eventually grows boring, and Lynlee slips through the patio sliders, into the house to watch television, cuddled on the couch with a quilt.
Sometime after the opening monologue on Saturday Night Live, she falls into a fitful doze. She wakens in the middle of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, the television too loud. She sees through the patio doors that the crowd is thinning with the late hour, and in a drowsy daze, wrapped in the quilt, makes her way blearily to bed.
A dim pool of light cuts into the hall outside Mama and Daddy’s bedroom, the door ajar, and Lynlee pauses, bare feet silent on the thick white carpet. There are voices, low, feminine, and she hardly hesitates before peering carefully around the door’s edge.
Standing in the soft light of the dressing table lamp are Mama and Mrs. Carver. Mama holds Mrs. Carver’s upper arm, and that first moment, at first glance, Lynlee thinks they are fighting. It has happened. They are fighting over Daddy.
A surge of adrenaline rushes through her, and she steps closer so she can see. So she can help Mama.
And then they are locked together, Mama and Mrs. Carver, and Mama’s soft light hair mingles with Patsy Carver’s long dark hair. She can’t see their faces, but their hands move, move, slide and bunch and rustle the beige silk and black lace.
Lynlee takes another step forward. Mama?
The two women pull apart, and Lynlee takes them in, tousled hair, clothes awry until they collect themselves enough to straighten and smooth.
Mama is now composed, so quickly, with such practice. Mrs. Carver, too. They look like the fashionable women, friends, that they are, and Mrs. Carver casually pulls cigarettes from her pocket, lights one. Mama manages a small, tight smile and says, Off to bed?
Lynlee sees how the soft black lace against Mama’s chest trembles with her heartbeat.
Mrs. Carver looks at Lynlee coolly. She doesn’t speak, and Lynlee, for the life of her, can’t seem to take a step or utter a word.
Mama says, It’s late. Say goodnight to Mrs. Carver.
Lynlee breathes hard. She doesn’t know what has happened, what she has just seen, only it looked as if Mama and Patsy Carver were kissing. Kissing each other, and not a friendly girlfriend kiss, but a movie kiss, like Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw, or Sean Connery and Ursula Andress. A movie kiss. A real kiss.
Lynlee, Mama says firmly. Good night.
In the quiet of her bedroom, Lynlee’s heart pounds in her ears. No, she is not sure what she saw, if anything at all. The two women could have been—maybe Mama was just offering comfort to a friend. A divorced friend. Daddy said they should be nice to her.
Lynlee, tucked up in the wide brass bed, the light out, the cool air whooshing through the house, lies on her side, her knees pressed together, and before she sleeps again, the room has paled to gray with the morning light.
On Sunday Lynlee swims while Daddy nurses his hangover with beer, strolls around the pool, picks up bits of debris from the night before. Mama buries herself in The Collected Letters of Virginia Woolf, and they eat leftover hors d’ouvres. Daddy leaves for the bank early Monday morning, and Lynlee swims because she doesn’t want to be alone in the house with Mama. So she is first to see the dust billow as a car turns off the highway onto their ribbon of road.
The car is black and low, the tiny back seat piled high with suitcases and boxes, and Lynlee’s sure it is European. She stands in front of the house when Patsy pulls up too fast, the car screeching a little as she brakes.
Lynlee is barefoot in the grass by the driveway, her hair wet from the pool, and she’s wearing her old favorite navy tank suit that shows her flat chest and sharp hipbones. She wishes she were dressed, not dripping and bedraggled.
Patsy eases first one slim leg and then the other out of the low-slung car. She wears bell-bottom jeans and a white tailored blouse and rhinestone sandals. Her eyes are covered by big round sunglasses like Mama’s. She waves to Lynlee. Mama home, she asks?
Lynlee wants to lie, almost does, but then discards the idea. It is cowardly. She lifts her chin, her hands on her hips, her narrow feet planted wide, her toes gripping the crisp lawn. Yes. Daddy’s at the bank, and she’s here.
Lynlee doesn’t make a move to fetch Mama or escort Mrs. Carver out of the heat, into the cool white brick house. She just looks at her.
Patsy Carver pushes her sunglasses up in her hair and gives the look right back to Lynlee. Neither of them speak for a long moment. Then Mrs. Carver says, I remember when you were just a baby. A toddler. You and your mama. You used to cuddle up and nap on the couch—
You shouldn’t see her, Lynlee says. You should just leave.
Patsy steps toward her, a hand outstretched. I can’t do that, she says.
Lynlee shakes her head, hard, violent. You need to go and leave us alone, she says, and her conviction of this one truth rings in the clear, still air.
Now, look, sugar, Patsy says. Her eyes are large and dark and dark-ringed. Her hands are a little shaky. I’m going to go in the house and talk to your mama. You go swim, okay? She steps past Lynlee, who wants to grab her arm, hold her there, but lacks the surety to make a move. Patsy slips in the front door, and after a few moment’s hesitation, Lynlee tiptoes in after her. The air is running full blast and she shivers, standing in the empty entryway. Voices come from the kitchen, and she creeps closer to listen, to gain an abbreviated view.
Mama says, You have to go, Patsy, now. I can’t believe you’re even here.
And Patsy, calm, definite, says, You can come with me. I rode it out, I got the money—it doesn’t matter what we do now. She takes a step toward Mama. Lynlee, pressed against the wall, cannot see Mama’s face, only her slim, hunch-shouldered figure, her head lowered, her hands twisted together. She’s not a child, Gwen, Patsy says. Lynlee inhales sharply at the reference to herself. Of course she’s not a child.
I can’t do it, Patsy. I love him—
Oh, hell, Patsy says, and slams the counter top with the flat of her hand. You don’t love him. I’m beginning to think you don’t know what love is. She takes another step. I left Bruce, which wasn’t hard to do, but I probably wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for what we had.
We? Who, exactly, is we? Lynlee wants to know. Her mouth is dry. What about Daddy? Mrs. Carver doesn’t seem the least bit interested in him. Instead, she wraps her arms around Mama, gently kisses her neck, runs the palms of her hands up and down her back.
And this time, in the shameless bright morning, the sun spilling on the tiled floor, the dust motes swirling in the light, they kiss, and there is no mistaking their intent. Lynlee is faint, shocked, and has held her breath too long. Still, she mustn’t make a sound, she mustn’t disturb what is happening between the two angular women standing entwined by the oak kitchen table.
She sees Mama’s shoulders shake. Mama is moaning, and Patsy is whispering against her mouth, Come with me, baby, come with me.
Mama thrusts her away, so violently that Patsy has to catch the counter ledge to keep from stumbling.
No, Patsy. There is such a strong note of bitterness in Mama’s voice it frightens Lynlee. Mama is not herself. She is not contained, serene. There is something explosive in her, and that, more than anything, frightens Lynlee. She has never thought her mother unpredictable, but this—the tears, the words, the frantic, distracted air about her—are all things Lynlee could never have imagined. Not from calm, serene Mama.
This is our chance, Patsy says.
The sheer weight of Mama’s misery presses out into the atmosphere. Lynlee can feel it in her chest. Mama’s eyes are streaming, a brown trickle of mascara dotting her cheeks. I’m past chances, Patsy, she says through her soft little sobs. No more. She struggles to bring herself under control, blows her nose on a paper napkin from the wooden napkin caddy.
Patsy Carver takes her purse from the table where she’d set it. I’ll leave my number and address, she says.
Don’t bother, Patsy, Mama says, but Patsy is busy scribbling on a piece of paper. When she’s done, she thrusts it into Mama’s hand. Take it, she says. Please.
I’m sorry, Mama says.
You’ll be sorrier before it’s all over, Patsy says, and turns on her heel, heads for the door so rapidly that Lynlee barely has time to retreat out of sight before she passes through the wide, tiled entryway, pushes open the front door so that she is bathed in a blinding glow, the white of her blouse shimmering. Her elegant shoulders slump, her chin tucked.
Lynlee waits until the guttural moan of Mrs. Carver’s car recedes down the road. She waits until the fresh sobs that have overtaken Mama subside to wet little snuffles. She waits at the end of the hall; she stands tightly wrapped up in herself, too tense to move, to speak, until she is sure Patsy Carver has put considerable distance between the house and herself.
Eventually all is dead silent, and only then does Lynlee creep quietly down the hall, to the kitchen where Mama sits at the table shredding her soggy paper napkin.
Mama, Lynlee says.
Mama lifts her head, looks at Lynlee. Her eyes are dark smudges, her lips a pale smear across her tan, fine-boned face. She swallows. Yes, she says.
© J. Scott Smith