The phone cord was kitchen-long. The kinks worked out to flat. I remember the bare spots on the floor where Mom tread. The back and forth. Oven, sink, fridge. Fridge, sink, oven. The cord traced tangles in and out, round and round, my chair. I shifted my feet. I remember the water running and the spaghetti spoon and the sauce that dripped on the cord, hung tough there, committed to it for life. On the other side, Auntie Jo’s voice—metered, tinny. Half-tuned to her kids on the other side, too. The laughs were the loudest, echoing across long distance, through the spaghetti stains, past the kinks worked flat, ’til they burst out the holes in the receiver sure as a river in spring. Those laughs were going to take us somewhere. I remember Dad’s shoe on the floor, home from work. The army-issue oxford polished to shine. How it fell right on top of Auntie Jo’s laugh. Then, hush.
She sat there, click-clicking on her phone. I hovered over her shoulder as long as she’d let me—the umbilical cord between us stretched bare. No, he doesn’t shine his shoes too bright. Yes, he can laugh hard. He’s real fine, she texted. He’s candy-apple, blue-ocean fine. She used emojis for apple, for ocean. She misspelled fine as fin. Autocorrect didn’t correct her because fin is a word too, a word that slices through still water and rushing water and heart water. I didn’t dare correct her either. She got up from the couch, waving her phone at me. Go away, Mom, her eyes said. Shoo. Shoo. She removed the blackish/whitish cushions one by one. She puffed them in and out and around and around like a spoon in a pot. The foam inside was full of kinks, sweat, swears. The couch lacked spine, lacked fin. It harkened from that time before you could use pictures for words but after the time when there were only pictures for words. I knew those times weren’t so different, but she didn’t yet. She laid back down, the freshly-fluffed cushions swallowing her body like water, and waited for nosy Great Aunt Jo to text back LOL.
Maureen Langloss is a lawyer-turned-writer living in New York City. She serves as the Flash Fiction Editor at Split Lip Magazine. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Sonora Review, Necessary Fiction, Jellyfish Review, the Prairie Schooner blog, and elsewhere. Find her online at maureenlangloss.com and on Twitter @maureenlangloss.