TITLE: The Right Mother
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction
Only three days on the run and already our clothes reek like overripe goat cheese. I slide a cigarette between my lips and grab my lighter, then glance at Jimmy and Sharon sleeping on the other bed. I may be an inept mother sitting on the edge of a saggy bed in the cheapest motel in Dayton, Ohio, but I love my kids.
So I close the lighter.
When my first marriage failed before it started--my fiance broke it off because, he said, I was too perky--Mother consoled me by saying my cheerful disposition was a blessing. An inheritance from both my lines.
"Your lucky lines," she said.
So, so lucky.
I step outside and wave a path through gnats swarming the light above the door. I sit on the hood and rest my feet on the Ford's bumper. I raise the cigarette but hear a deep buzz--a hellacious beetle dive-bombing me. I duck but it flies into my hair. Stifling a scream, I drop the cigarette and reach for the bug. It escapes my fingers, crawling around in there until I trap it. I pinch its body and pull it out.
Then I crush it flat and wipe the guts on my pants.
Back inside. Back on the bed. Thinking. Spinning the tiny corrugated wheel. Lighting up. Inhaling deeply.
I blow the smoke toward the door, away from the kids, but the tobacco cloud curves toward them.
If we survive the night, maybe I'll call Mother.