He insisted on oatmeal and fried onions for breakfast. Following, he wants to go outside to water the roses.
Nan is at the sink, scrubbing the skillet. Stilled by his request, she takes a breath, reminds herself that it is not an outrageous request, just another request—she does not know how many this morning alone. She lets the cast iron thud to the bottom of the sink before she cuts across his path to the door.
Outside, she dries her hands on her pants as she rounds the house to check the lock on the gate leading out front—to the vast and unfamiliar neighborhood—and then she returns to the backyard, surveys for things he might trip over.
The yard had never seemed "too large" until recently. In fact, when she and Ross first viewed the house, they had had doubts about the size of the backyard—would it comfortably hold the four or five children they were planning?
Nan stands at the edge of the yard, her mind alive with the wild boyish ramblings that had never occurred. The dark braids, wisps of hair escaping, which had never swung upside down from the lowest branch of the oak she and her husband had planted in anticipation.
She shakes herself from the thoughts, reminding herself not to compare what she'd wanted and what she'd received.
She turns to find her father-in-law outside. He stands over the rose bushes, a steady stream of yellow showering.
Nan laughs, afraid of what she might do otherwise.
Her father-in-law appears shaken at her reaction. "I'm sorry. Did I need to put the nozzle on first?" he asks.
She breathes deep. "It's okay, Poppa. Let's just put the hose away and go back inside."
Nan guides his hands as they push his penis back through the slit in his boxer shorts. She watches him tug on the zipper, pulling his pants closed and she's momentarily pleased that he remembers still how to operate the fastener.
"They'll bloom full with a good watering," he tells her as they walk across the patio to the back door, and Nan nods, glancing back to the rose bush, the wetness clinging to petals, like a shimmer of tears in the mid-morning sun.
—From Mother Love
Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz writes fiction and poetry and is widely published. Her chapbook, Mother Love, is available for free download here.