Leea Glasheen writes on the shores of Lake Michigan; you are most likely to catch sight of her in the corner of a coffee shop, tapping, tapping, tapping her thoughts into existence.
Leea packs a Master's Degree in creative writing. Her novel Backbiters was released in July by Montag Press. She has recently been published in The Moon Magazine, The Writer's Tribe Review, Latchkey Tales, Alternate Hilarities, Synaesthesia Magazine, When Women Awake, and Splickety Love.
Please visit her at debraleeaglasheen.com.
Regarding her work, Leea says: "relaxing in rolling waves while juggling – that’s writing for me"
Sunday at five minutes after noon, Gwen tucked a pamphlet into her glove compartment. She paused before removing her fingers. Smooth and slick, she thought, like the cover of a magazine when they used to be actual paper. Gwen told her phone to dial Ben because she was almost as self-conscious waiting in her car as she was waiting alone at the table.
“Open,” she instructed the door and stepped out. The smell of steaming tar on the road reminded her that it was summer in Wisconsin.
“Hi, Mums,” Ben answered. “We’re almost there. Just passed the mediabrary.”
“Yeah, Kyle’s with me.”
“I can see you. Hey!”
Gwen watched him lean his head out of the window as he shouted and waved until she lifted a hand so he would stop.
“You got the last spot,” he said. “We’ll park behind.”
As they swung into the parking lot behind the restaurant, Ben dropped his phone into his shirt pocket and turned to Kyle. “Let’s—”
“She doesn’t want me here,” Kyle said.
“She didn’t say that.”
“I heard the ‘oh’ and dead silence.”
Ben gave him a peck on the cheek. “I want you here.”
“Ouch! You’re prickly.”
“You want the scruffy look? It comes with the scruffy feel,” Ben said.
“How scruffy can you look with your shirt buttoned to your Adam’s apple?”
Kyle parked the electric Honda behind Zacateca’s Mexican Bistro. Their pinkies intertwined for several seconds as they walked down the exposed brick hallway.
Gwen stood as her son approached the table.
Ben wrapped his arms around her. “Hello, Mums!”
“Hello, Bennie. Mmmm, you smell like cinnamon and moss. I got you that for Christmas, didn’t I?” Gwen sat in a wooden chair, hand-painted with a pastoral scene. She adjusted the bottom of her teal peasant-styled shirt over the waist of her blue jean capris.
“Kyle. How are you?”
A young waitress in a layered skirt bounced up to the table.
After Gwen pointed to the meal she wanted on the menu, Kyle ordered in Spanish, rolling the “r” in burrito like a revving engine.
“I have no idea what he said, but I’ll take the same.” Ben took his mother’s hand in his. “Mums, you would be so proud of Kyle. He’s president of GEPS – the Gay Embryos Protection Society now. I know it’s not your favorite group, but members around the web voted, and they chose Kyle!”
“It’s got nothing to do with my favorite organization or not. I just think there should be freedom to choose. Let the parents decide if they want to fix the variant.”
“Fix?” Kyle leaned forward on his elbows. “Should we let parents decide to make eight-foot tall children if they like basketball? What if the child wants to be a jockey? Whose freedom to choose are we talking about, Gwen? We believe that heterosexualization of gay embryos is an unnatural manipulation of DNA.”
Gwen glanced at the second from last finger on her left hand, twisting her wrist so the light reflected in the diamond.
Ben laid his hand gently on Kyle’s arm, “Let’s not have this conversation.”
“You brought it up.”
“And I’m sorry I did. Mums would choose a gay son all over again anyway. Wouldn’t you, Mums?”
“I’d choose whatever would make my son happy. Unlike your father, family is important to me.” The tight skin around Gwen’s eyes crinkled ever so slightly as she stretched her mouth into a smile.
“See. We’re all in agreement. Mums, you look fantastic. Is that a new shade of red in your hair, or did you get your eyes lightened? It’s both, isn’t it?”
The following Thursday, Gwen waited for two and a half minutes in front of her dental cosmetologist’s office before she called.
“I’m here,” she told Ben.
“So are we.”
“Kyle’s just dropping me off. Don’t worry. He’s not crashing our mother-son veneer party.”
“Okay. I’ll wait for you at the front door.”
As soon as he was sure the call was cut, Kyle said, “She must have smiled big -- I think I heard the ass fat in her face slosh.”
“It’s thigh fat, and I love you enough for everyone on earth, so it doesn’t matter.” Ben kissed Kyle’s cheek. “Notice anything?”
“Like . . . ”
“I shaved closer so your peachy skin wouldn’t get scratched up.”
“Aw, so sweet. Let me feel it again.”
After Kyle dropped him off, Ben hurried across the walk and nearly hugged Gwen off the ground. They entered the brightly lit office. The program City or Pity played on the T-screen, and Ben and Gwen chatted about which starlet wore the dress best. A crisp dental assistant called their names, taking them back to a milk white room with a sea-foam colored chair surrounded by silver tables, silver lamps, and silver instruments.
“We’ll get Ben started first,” she said through the three-ply paper covering her mouth and nose.
Ben lay back on the chair. She fitted a mask onto his face.
“Just breathe naturally.”
Gwen spun around with panicked eyes as the dentist entered the room. He nodded reassuringly. She turned back to Ben whose tousled hair shone like a halo under the bright lights. “Just relax, Bennie. It will all be over soon, and you’ll be so happy with the changes.”
“Okay, Mom . . . my . . . ”
Two hours later Ben’s eyelids fluttered. Gwen stood in front of a mirror, licking her new bright and shiny teeth.
“I dreamt about Angelina Jolie with a Jedi laser,” Ben whispered.
“How do you feel, sweetheart?” Gwen asked.
“Heavy. Your teeth are so white. How do mine look?” Ben tried to run his tongue over his teeth, but he couldn’t feel his mouth. He told his hand to touch his jaw, but it didn’t move.
“Beautiful. You look beautiful, Bennie. How do you feel?”
The next Sunday at twelve minutes after noon, Gwen sat near the door of the restaurant. The seat of her chair depicted an indigenous woman with arms full of white, funnel-shaped calla lilies with long yellow spikes in the center of each. Gwen’s phone dialed.
“We’re driving over the bridge,” Ben answered.
“Yeah, you knew Kyle was coming.”
“We’ll park behind the bistro.”
“I’m by the east window.”
“Hmm.” Kyle imitated Gwen.
“I can’t be held responsible for what she says.”
“You’re right,” Kyle said. He moved in for a kiss. Ben turned toward the window, so Kyle caught him half on the lips and half on the cheek.
“You’re past prickly to the point of being soft again.”
“I’m on vacation,” Ben said.
“Is that what you call it?”
Ben parked his new vintage Jeep Wrangler behind Zacateca’s Mexican Bistro. As they entered the building, Ben kept his hands thrust in his front pockets.
Gwen stood up.
“Hello, Mom.” Ben slid into the chair across from her.
“Hello, Gwen,” Kyle said.
“Sorry we’re late. There was traffic,” Ben said.
“On Grand Theft Auto,” Kyle said, inspecting the napkin he unfolded.
The bouncy waitress took their order.
“Red meat at lunch, Bennie?” Gwen asked.
“She is as cute as could be, isn’t she?” Ben watched the waitress jiggle away.
“If you’re fishing,” Kyle said, staring at Ben, who didn’t turn to notice.
The following Sunday at seventeen minutes after noon, Gwen tried Ben a second time.
“I’m sorry. We haven’t left. Kyle’s locked himself in the bedroom. He’s crying.”
“That doesn’t have to ruin our lunch. You can be here in fifteen. I’ll order guacamole.”
“I’m not going to just leave him here. It’s my fault.”
“I didn’t want to say anything, dear, but he’s not right for you. Come for lunch, Bennie. You always feel better after we talk.”
“Jesus Christ, Gwen. You never gave him a fair chance. Kyle’s great. It’s not him. I just . . . I don’t know . . . I feel so distant.”
“Well, that’s not your fault, Bennie. We’ll talk it out. Come for lu—”
“Would you like to make another call?” Gwen’s phone asked.
The last Sunday in August Gwen’s chair was adorned with a pink skull drinking a blue margarita.
“Ugh, you,” she said as her ex-husband approached the table.
“Is that how you treat an old friend, Gwennie?”
“No. Just you. No. Don’t sit down. How did you know I was here?”
“Ben didn’t want you to be alone. He knows you hate that.”
“How late is he going to be?”
“He’s not coming.” Gwen’s ex-husband removed his suit coat before he sat.
“Why didn’t he call then? And for god’s sake, why are you here?”
The waitress opened her mouth to speak.
“He doesn’t want anything. Bring me a melon, no, a lemon daiquiri.” When the girl left, Gwen added, “She’s your type isn’t she? Oh, no, she works standing up.”
“Gwennie, I’m sorry about what happened, but you have to face it. Ben is a grown man now, and he wants to be in my life.”
“Since when? I’m all he’s ever had.”
“He wants us to talk . . . to work this out.”
“When pigs fly.”
“Not work things out between you and me. That’s old news. Ben just wants to see me without you getting a bee in your bonnet. Be reasonable.”
“How dare you! Be reasonable? I’ve heard that from you before. Making me think I was crazy.” Gwen turned to the broad-shouldered waiter who wiped down a table several feet away. “Francisco! This man is bothering me. Please make him leave.”
“Hello, Bennie. It’s Mums . . . your mom. Just wondering how you’re doing. It’s been two months. I know you’re busy at the construction site with your dad, but I’d like to hear from you. Maybe we could meet for lunch next Sunday if you have a chance. I know Jamila doesn’t like to go with us, but you and I could still meet. Please, give me a call.”
Gwen told her phone to call Zacateca’s.
“Delivery, please. Hello, Francisco. Yes, the usual. Thanks.”
Gwen grabbed a Kleenex and dabbed her eyes.
She heard a tap on the door.
“Bennie! I . . . I didn’t expect you. Oh, I must look like such a mess. If you had called, I would’ve gotten ready. We could’ve met for lunch.” Gwen smoothed her hair with her right hand and subconsciously covered her mouth and chin with the left.
“I don’t care what you look like. Are you going to let me in?” Ben asked.
“Of course. Should I get ready? I have a delivery coming, but I can put it in the fridge. There’s plenty of time for us to make it for lunch.”
“I’m not here for lunch.” Ben sat on the beige couch between two pillows, each with a different genus of flower embroidered on its front.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” Gwen told him.
“You seem smaller than I remembered you. Maybe you’re smaller without make up.”
Gwen ran her hand over her hair again. “If I had known . . . I just called you right before you got here.”
“I know.” Ben paused a moment. “Jamila and I went parasailing.”
“Really? That sounds nice. I-”
“When I landed, I landed hard, and my knee hit my mouth and cracked one of my veneers. When I went in to get it replaced, they gave me a shot of xylocaine.”
“Let me see. I hope they did a good job.” Gwen leaned up from her chair and moved in Ben’s direction.
“Sit down. I didn’t come here to show you my tooth.”
Gwen backed into her peach-colored Queen Anne chair. It was really more of an apricot, definitely not as dark as coral.
“Dentists use local anesthetics when they attach veneers,” Ben continued.
Gwen nodded. “Some dentists do.”
“I want you to know that I know.”
“Know what, Bennie?”
“Gwen. Stop. I know.”
Gwen looked at the floor while tapping the armrest vigorously with one hand.
“You could change it back, Bennnie. We could go back to how it was.”
“I remember how I was. I remember who I was, but now . . . now I feel like who I am now. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I know what I’m not going to do.”
Gwen started to speak again, but Ben cut her off.
“I’m not going to listen to you. You used up your all your chips in one fell swoop – all your motherly claim. I’m no longer obligated to listen to you, much less sit through another god-forsaken lunch or, for that matter, see your lying, manipulative, sliced-and-spliced face ever again.”
Gwen hid her face in her hands.
“As a matter of fact, let me block your number right now.” Ben pulled out his phone and told it to block Gwen’s calls.
Gwen looked at Ben over her fingertips.
“Yeah, take one last look. This is what you wanted. I like screwing women now. Are you happy? Probably not because you wanted me to be your little man forever. Just not your little gay man. Now, I’m your nothing.”
Ben stood and walked out. Gwen saw him cross the lawn to his Jeep and jump in. Jamila was in the passenger seat, tall with silky, mocha skin and long, wavy, luxurious hair.