His room was across my grandmother’s.  He paced back and forth reciting indecipherable mumble jumble.  Matted hair, long sleeves, barefooted.  Madness, I say, sheer madness.  His eyes remained fixed on the floor he paced, retracing his steps.  Occasionally he’d look up offering a vacant stare then he’d resume his march.  Grandma suggested I ignore him, but his movements distracted me from the matter at hand; her failing health.

Once I heard him repeat Helene, Helene, Helene.  Another time he took off his shirt.  I saw a block of numbers tattooed on his forearm.  His mania was starting to make sense.


“Her hair grows like tobacco plants,” exclaimed Iris. She was the no-frills hairstylist who made house calls. “Folds upon folds.”

My mother loved my thick, abundant hair and let it grow past my waistline. It was laborious to upkeep, but she was not going to allow fifth grade pranksters, who stuck a gob of gum in it, rob me of my crowning glory.

Iris pulled, tucked, and chopped off a large chunk.  Any other person would have a bald spot, but not me. The tobacco-like swirls swallowed the butchered hair.

Iris charged Mom a few extra dollars for her services.

The Spanx War

Bella stretched the elasticized material and shoved in her right leg. Then her left, much like her grandmother squeezed ground meat into casings during the high holidays.  She pulled and tugged and rearranged the bulges in the midsection of her body.  It’d be easier, she huffed, if she exercised and watched what she ate rather than fight the Spanx war, but the battle was not food related.  Age had brought on undesirable flabs.

She smoothed her dress, satisfied everything was held tightly in place.  Her eyes fixed on her neck.  No amount of Spanx could stretch or hide those lines.