Shadowridge Press titles in detail...
Tracy L. Carbone
Trade paperback / 6 x 9 / 254 pages / Publication date / Feb 2017
From the author: "The stories I’ve collected on the pages within don’t belong to any specific genre. They are not horror or thriller or romance or science fiction, though they have elements of many of those things. The one thing they all have in common is that they are cautionary tales. Don’t do something bad or it will come back and haunt you. Be careful what you wish for. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or pay the price. These are tales about people whose actions change them somehow, or change others. They balance the scales; hence they are “just” stories. I hope you enjoy these visits into my psyche and the lives of my characters."
The Stories- The Real Mother / The Connecting Wall / The Typist / The Bully / A Trip To Egypt / The Forever Home / Reunion / MonaLand / The Freeze / The Voodoo Doll / The Princess Costume / The Imaginary Solution / The Mirror / Fool On The Hill / Janice's Daily Visits / A Dolly For Grandma / Visions Of A New York Loft / Etta and Jojo /
Rose-Colored Glasses / The Tree Killer / Lunch At Mom's / Tragedy At Oak View Terrace / The Saturday Group
HERE'S A PREVIEW FROM JUST STORIES
LUNCH AT MOM'S
Mom passed in June and was buried in her favorite blue dress, the one with daisies and a white lace collar. “I’ll miss you, Mom. I’ll miss our lunches.” Billy leaned in and kissed her forehead; stepped back abruptly at the coldness of her once warm skin, and brushed cake makeup from his lips. Mom and he had been so close. He didn’t know how he could get by without their daily lunch visits, or even if he wanted to. He gripped the inner edge of the coffin, bunching burgundy satin under his fingertips.
The funeral home director tapped his shoulder. “Billy, it’s time to let her go.”
Bill nodded and released his hold. Goodbye, Mom.
“Are you sure you won’t reconsider an open casket? The cancer took her so quickly; her body is unmarred. She looks just as beautiful as—”
“No. No, I want it closed.” Billy’s voice broke as he talked. He’d never felt so sad, even when Dad died. Nothing even close to this. “I don’t want people poring over her, talking about how great she looks, how she’s in a better place.” He glanced down at her one last time. “She’s dead. Gone. And what’s left—” He lowered the lid. “The sooner we all accept the tragedy of her passing, the better.”
Five years before, Billy quit college to help the family business when Dad passed away. Since then, he’d gone to Mom’s every day for lunch. It was close to work and it made them both happy. It was the one constant in all his years of change.
Dad had been a clock aficionado, or a clock nut as Billy jokingly called him. The house was filled with grandfather clocks, desk clocks, and anniversary clocks, and four cuckoo clocks from Solvang. Not a digital face in the house unless you counted the front of the microwave. Mom kept all the clocks wound in Dad’s honor. The rhythmic ticking had been a part of Billy’s childhood and he still enjoyed it, now that he was an adult.
Billy and Mom had a routine. Billy would arrive at 12:05, as he worked only five minutes down the road. The apartment he rented with his girlfriend was an hour away, so their lunches provided perfect Billy Mom time, as she called it. Mom would set the round metal alarm clock for 12:55. She’d make him various lunches, childhood favorites: bologna sandwiches and tomato soup, grilled cheese, or Sloppy Joes. On rare and special occasions, she’d make homemade macaroni and cheese. At 12:55 the loud metallic rattle would sound. She’d whisk his plate and bowl away, toss it in the sink. “Gotta hurry, get back to work, Billy.” He’d kiss her cheek and off he’d go.
He wiped a tear from his eye as he thought of it now, as the somber organ music played a dirge. No more lunches with Mom.
It was a week before Billy visited the house again. He spent all day winding the clocks and cleaning up. He threw away the old food, wiped down the counters. His girlfriend Sandra’s plan was for him to sell the “old dump” so they could buy a bigger newer house. As he walked through the place where he had spent his formative years though, memories overtook him.
He walked to the bannister and ran his hand along the smooth wood. He thought of the times he slid down that railing, with Dad laughing and Mom calling out to be careful.
The front closet still held his father’s overcoat, and the hockey skates Billy wore as a young boy. Mom insisted on keeping things, said memories lived in them, and tossing them out meant saying goodbye. He shook his head at how much she’d saved. Sandra said Mom was a hoarder but she wasn’t. The house was clean and orderly even if every drawer and closet was packed with memories.
He touched his father’s jacket and could hear his laugh, could remember his strong scent of cigarettes and Old Spice. Behind the coat hid his old hockey stick. Fondling the worn wood brought back the feeling of cold air on his face, ice chips flying up and hitting his cheeks as he skidded to a stop on the rink. The smack of the puck hitting his stick, hurting his hands.
“I can’t sell this place,” he said aloud. He closed the closet door and headed for the kitchen.
He picked up the receiver from the wall phone and dialed Sandra.
“Hi. Just listen, Sandra. I don’t want to sell. Coming back here, it’s like—my life was here and I want to stay. I want us to live here. But we can do renovations and change things around, add on—”
“No,” she ordered. “Billy, no. You need to say your goodbyes to that place. Sell it and we’ll get a house out here by my parents.”
In his head he heard his mother’s voice, with her familiar words. “She’s not the girl for you, Billy.” For once, he didn’t argue.
In that second he decided he was done with her, was going to move his things back to the old house. He’d do it today and—
“I’m pregnant,” Sandra said from the other end. “I’m pregnant and I want us to live close to my family. We’ll need to get married of course.”
He hung up. Pregnant. Marriage. He looked at the fridge, covered with pictures of Dad, Mom, and him over the years. He didn’t want to leave all this behind but reality had slapped him in the face. He needed to be a part of this new family. Mom was gone so what was the point in keeping the house?
Billy heard the loud clicking of the clock Mom set for lunch. It was 12:05. On habit, he set the timer for 12:55. “One last lunch together,” he said, as he took some bread from the box and peanut butter from the cabinet. He made himself a sandwich and sat down.
“Forgot your milk,” Mom said.
He turned around and saw her, in her favorite dress. She smiled and handed him a glass of cold milk.
“But how? You’re—”
“We won’t speak of how, Billy. Lunches. That’s all we get. No questions, and it has to be our secret.” She kissed him on the forehead with warm lips.
“Our secret,” he replied.
“Going to lunch at Mom’s,” Billy said as he left the office. His coworkers saw nothing unusual in his spending his lunch hours there. His home with Sandra was an hour without traffic so it made perfect sense to hang out at the old homestead. It was paid in full and the utilities and taxes were low. He had to miss lunch some days to visit with clients, but come hell or high water he made it to Mom’s on Fridays.
“Hi, Billy,” Mom said as he walked in the door. She set the clock and placed it on the table before him. She wore her blue dress as always, with the daisies and a white lace collar.
Nothing ever changed in the house, he thought with a smile. Mom didn’t age. She was frozen in time, on the last day he ever saw her healthy. It was a week after the diagnosis, and the day of her first treatment.
Billy had shown up at her house that morning to drive her to the hospital. “What’s this?” she’d asked when she saw his hair. He rubbed his hand over his fresh crew cut.
“You’ll lose your hair from the treatment, Mom, but you won’t be alone.”
“You’re the best son anyone could have,” she said, smiling through tears.
They chatted about the upcoming July 4th fireworks, and the Strawberry Festival. The ride to her chemo session was filled with nervous chatter.
After that day, she was gone. Allergic reaction to the chemo and cardiac arrest. She never left the clinic.
Billy resolved to keep his head shaved in her honor.
“Give it a rest, Billy,” Sandra said about his hair as the years went by. “Let her go already.” She didn’t understand. How could she when she didn’t know about the lunches?
“Bologna sandwiches today,” Mom said as she pushed a plate under Billy’s nose, and handed him a napkin. “Do you have any new pictures of the boys?”
He pulled out a couple of photos and handed them over as he chewed his sandwich. Mom had it down pat, just the right amount of mayo, with white bread and no lettuce. Sandra insisted he put lettuce and tomatoes on everything, to add nutrition.
“They’re getting so big,” Mom said. “Four and five. Such fun ages. I wish I could visit with them, just once.”
“You have. I brought them here a few times.”
“You know what I mean,” she said as she traced a loving finger across the photos. “I wish they could see me, that I could speak with them, hold them in my arms.”
“Me too, Mom. Me too, but this only works with us.”
“Billy Mom time,” she said, smiling at him. The harsh alarm rattled and he slapped the top of it. She pulled his plate away and sent him out the door with a kiss.