Tuesday, December 25, 2012


            Two days before Christmas and she is returning things she bought last week—the sweater, the shirt he would have liked but not with that tie, the electronic gizmo that nobody needs but looked so . . . what? . . . modern? contemporary? What is that other word? Geeky? but in a good way.
            She stands in the return-only line feeling slightly smug because the queue is short, and she knows the day after Christmas it will snake past the organizing ropes. She’s beat the rush, returning gifts before giving them, things nobody will want, not even her son who loves her or her ex, who, apparently, doesn’t.
            What is the protocol here? Gifts to a man who has left, a man she loves but who has grown tired of her, weary, out of love, not in to her anymore. What kind of excuse is that? And no, it wasn’t meant to be a sexual explanation, he said with that slanted smile that deepened the dimple in his right cheek. I just don’t want to be married any more—and we’re all adults. Right?
            He meant their son, twenty-one years old on June 21st, golden boy on his golden birthday. The boy was launched, and Colin was free. He didn’t say it like that, but look at what happened.
            She bought him the shirt without thinking or wanting to think. She’d bought him a blue Oxford cloth shirt every year of their married lives. They met in Oxford, both on a Fulbright. She was sentimental, he humored her, wore the shirt every year on the 26th when they went to three movies in a row—another tradition.

            Well, she bought the shirt, and now she was returning it early, before she weakened, wrapped it in brown paper, and shipped it to the apartment he said he loved—so urban—so much better—yadda, yadda, yadda.
            The line moved forward. Maybe she should send it to him. He was still human. He’d hold the package, smile that smile, turn it over, slit the tape with his Swiss army knife, open it, see the Oxford cloth shirt and—what? Feel the pang that had paralyzed her for the last six months?
            “Next,” the cashier said.
She stepped forward.

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, December 17, 2012


            Winter. Winter again. Always winter. White white winter. She thought it beautiful, but she thought everything was beautiful. One could not trust her on questions of aesthetics. The shoes made his point. Red with a blue buckle bow contraption on each toe. Shoes she wore to work, to the grocery store, to church, God forbid—which He probably did. One could hope that He never looked as low as one’s feet.
            Well, she couldn’t wear those shoes in the winter, snow and ice on the sidewalks, hazards everywhere. She couldn’t get to the car at the curb in those shoes, much less across a parking lot.
            He told her that much.
            She laughed. “I’ll go barefoot then, until I’m safely inside.” A joke. He knew she didn’t mean it.
            “You’ll be arrested,” he said, and changed his voice to that ironic tone he saved for special occasions. “Headline: Aging suburban woman arrested for going barefoot in sub zero weather—a danger to herself.
            “Will I get my picture in the paper?” she said. “I hope so.” She looked so happy at the prospect, he could hardly look at her. He’d have told her to wipe that smile off her face if he were the type of man who spoke crudely which he was not. She should thank her lucky stars.
            “I am just pointing out how . . . “ he paused, to get the exact word, to say it just right, so that instead of grinning or laughing, she would nod in agreement or bend her head in acquiescence, just this once. “.  .  .  just pointing out how . . . how unnecessary it is for you to risk life and limb for . . . “
            “Shoes.” She finished the sentence, supplied the word and even nodded as if she understood and agreed. Then she crossed the room, sat down next to him, a bit too close, crossed her legs, pulled her skirt above her knee, stuck the top leg out—long, slim, full at the calf, narrow to the ankle--and let the gaudy red shoe dangle from her toe. “Not bad for an old lady,” she said.
            “Well, yes, but that’s not the point.”
            “The point is . . . ?” The shoe swayed back and forth. “The point is . . .?”

            “Pointless,” he whispered and lurched to catch the shoe as it fell.
© 2012 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, December 10, 2012


            She just wanted to stop thinking. Over thinking—that was her problem, her life-long problem. What should she wear? What frock should she wear? Yes, her mother had insisted on calling the most ordinary dress a frock. Well, she wouldn’t be wearing a frock to Prissy's conference.
            Maybe that was the origin of her troubles, her anxieties, the word frock. Nobody in 1982 dressed their child in a frock. Except for Lois’s mother. So old country. So pretentious. So . . . so foreign.
            Well, here she was. 2012—thirty years later, and still embarrassed by her mother, the chignon at the nape of her neck, the heavy mascara, the red circles of rouge on both cheeks. What about blush, Mama?
Blush? Her mother didn’t listen, didn’t care, didn’t hear, didn’t think, so Lois had to do all the thinking for both of them. Oh, those damn frocks, smocked frocks in the sixth grade. The horror!

            She shook her head at the memory, forced herself to laugh, to pretend it didn’t matter, to concentrate on the problem at hand, what to wear to Prissy’s junior high conference. Prissy. Yes, her daughter hated that name, but it did fit her.
            Mom, Prissy whined, My name is Priscilla. I just want you to use my real name.
            You just want! Well, you don’t always get what you want, Lois had said and stuck a pencil in her balloon of hair.
            Your hair looks like a helmet, Prissy said.
            Lois heard the tone, not the words. Everybody knew teenagers needed something to complain about—and Prissy had almost nothing—she didn’t know how lucky she was to have a mother who didn't embarrass her every step of the way.

Well, back to the closet. What to wear to the parent conference? She pulled out the orange bellbottoms and held them up to her waist. Perfect! A good pair of pants never went out of style.

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Dance

            “Let’s go home, “ he said.
            “I’m not ready,” she said.
            “I see that.” He sighed—physically, not audibly. His shoulders slumped, mouth tightened, eyes glazed, muscles in his face clenched just enough to hollow the skin below those high cheekbones. She almost touched his face in apology, put her hand on the high, hard bone of his left cheek, to say not too much longer. Let me stay just a few more minutes.
            Which would have been a lie, so she didn’t do it. She wanted an hour or hours, not minutes. She wasn’t ready to go, not even close. Which he probably knew. She met his eyes briefly—blue as the sky is blue and so clear. Open. Vulnerable. He was a big man, Stopped measuring at six feet five, he said. Felt like a freak, so I didn’t want to know. Big, broad frame, no fat, nothing extra. What you see is what you get, he’d said that first day over coffee in the shop with the chairs and tables too small for him. He looked out of place, uncomfortable but there to meet her. She was exactly in place. She knew how well her body suited the chair and table, knew what happened to her blouse when she leaned towards him, how bright her smile, how lovely her voice. She knew, and he saw and stayed in that awkward chair with his back to the door where the wind rushed in every time it opened. It lifted his hair, and she knew he was cold. She didn’t feel it. His big body shielded her from the cold.
            She remembered all that in the flash of his tightened cheek and was sorry, but she couldn’t go. The music had started again. Somebody would ask her to dance—it always happened—her glass of wine, her third glass, was half full. He only drank one—one of my rules, he said, which were numerous.
            “Let’s go home,” he said just as she rose to dance. Jerome Somebody.  Not much to look at, but he could dance. And that’s what she wanted just now, dancing, dancing, dancing.
            "Why so sad, Sweetheart?” Jerome’s wide hand on her waist held her to him.
            She blinked and smiled, the smile that always worked. “I’m not sad when I’m dancing,” she said and wished it were still true.

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran