I poked at my pork chop with my fork and looked across the table at my mother who was doing the same.
“Why did you give me such a stupid middle name?”
I knew she hated it when I asked but she looked tired enough today that I thought she might actually answer just to shut me up. I had a normal first name, and I was appreciative of that, and even an unusual middle name would have been fine too, like the celebrities name their kids. “Flower,” or “leaf,” would have been okay, although I might have thought I was one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s kids or some love child from an 80’s Earth day. Of course my parents couldn’t even spell my first name normally, they had to spell it “Nikol,” so people called me “Nickel” all the time. The morons at school called me “Penny,” thinking they were hilarious. I was worth at least five pennies. But my middle name was worse than any I had ever known and I wanted to know why I was being tortured.
My Dad pushed his chair back and pushed himself up from the table, choosing not to look at my mother. He looked at me, knowing I was trying to pick a fight that he wanted no part of. He dropped off his plate in the sink and sat down in the den with his iPad and the remote.
My mother looked up at me. She had had a lousy day at work, I could tell. Usually she came home and complained about this or that but today she hadn’t said a word. It had to have been really bad. She sighed. She was going to tell me off.
“It was the name of a song I loved at the time,” she began and I put my fork down. My heart skipped in my chest. She was actually going to tell me. I tried to stay calm and casual about it but instead I dropped my fork onto the floor and bits of pork chop flipped onto the china cabinet. I said nothing. I just clenched my teeth together and looked back at my Mum. I was desperate to hear her tale. My Mum looked like she was in a trance and just kept talking. She hadn’t even blinked yet.
“…at one of those outdoor concerts that ran all weekend. We were sitting on an old wool blanket I’d taken out of the garage, off the shelf where your grandfather kept his golf umbrellas and shoes. The blanket made me itch but I put up with it without complaining. Imagine, me, putting up with something uncomfortable for a boy!”
“The song came on that we both loved and Gary pulled me up, held my hand, and led me behind the stage. We ran hand in hand through the people, weaving around other itchy blankets and homemade lawn chairs, trying to avoid the smokers and the dogs. The grass was so dry you could see the dust come up behind us as we ran but we didn’t care. He grabbed my neck and pulled me into him and we made love right there behind the stage.”
I gulped and stared at her.
My Mum looked so wistful sitting there in her chair, twirling her fork with her fingers and staring into space.
“We stayed like that all weekend, never knowing what time it was, never caring who was watching. I wore some old tank top that I kept in my closet afterwards without washing it. It was gross but it didn’t matter. We got home on Sunday afternoon and I just sat on the couch, elated, until I had to go back to work on Monday. It was like a dream and I never wanted to forget it.”
She looked up at me and her eyes looked teary. She sniffled, wiped her nose with her little paper napkin that we’d kept from KFC take-out last weekend and she carefully placed her fork and knife together on her plate.
I recovered myself from almost falling off my chair and I looked through the kitchen into the den to see if my father had been listening. Then I turned to my mother.
“Great story Mum, but who’s Gary?”
This story was inspired by Sarah Selecky’s writing prompts. Her website is sarahselecky.com.