Mom asked
if I could bring her
a few things.
I said maybe.

“I just want
some Hostess fruit pies,” she said.
And berry.”

I heard the crackle
of her cigarette
in the receiver.

“For God’s sake.
That’s not too much to ask.”

I stopped at 7-11
and got three apple
and two blueberry pies.
The clerk bagged them.
I gave him cash.

“Anything else?” he said.

“No,” I said.
“That’ll do it.”

Mom lived
a few ragged streets
from the party store
in low-slung brick housing
with trampled green space
and cracked sidewalks.
A peeling sign
accented by dead mums
and car-lot flags
marked the entry.

I turned in
dodging kids on bikes
and a loose dog
with a square jaw.
Two giant crows
cawed and ravaged
an errant bag of garbage
next to her unit.

The door was propped open
with an empty bottle of Suave.
I stepped over
a grubby welcome mat
and onto a
frayed braided rug.

“Well look who showed up.”

Mom sat at
a spindly kitchen table,
flicking cigarette ashes
into an empty tuna can.
The radio was tuned to AM.
Ronnie Milsap sang
“There Ain’t No Getting Over Me”
through the static.

I pulled out a chair
and brushed crumbs
from a sticky vinyl seat.
I took the pies
from the bag,
neatly lining them
next to a scatter
of ripped open bills,
SSI check stubs,
and empty pill bottles.

“I told you BERRY,”
Mom grimaced.
“Not blueberry.
You never listen.”

She crushed her Winston
and rose on a wobble,
scuffling to the counter
on bare withered legs.

“Good thing I still
got ice cream,” she said.

She rummaged in
the iced-over freezer,
pulling out a smashed carton.
Peeling back the lid,
she spooned
crystallized Neapolitan
onto a chipped dessert plate.

I unwrapped an apple pie,
a film of white sugar
sticking to my fingertips.
She ate,
using tarnished tableware
to mash up the
filling and crust
and top it
with gooey pools
of ice cream.

“Remember when I
used to make apple pie
for your dad?”

Mom talked with her mouth full,
a puree of ooze
coating her teeth.

“The bastard always said
I used too much sugar.”

Image credit:1tamara2

Ann Kammerer lives near Chicago, and is a recent transplant from her home state of Michigan. Her short fiction and narrative poetry have appeared in several publications and anthologies, and have received top honors in a writing contest or two.