His face looked plain but calm, the face of an ancestor in a daguerreotype, with a mustache and a tight collar. The photographer held the powder up high, and then it exploded with a bright smelly puff. But that was 100 years ago.

His face now, in the 20th century, looks plain but calm. An American Gothic – thin-lipped, silent, stoic. She knows different, though. She’s seen him crying like a baby, snot running down his face, on his knees saying that’s it that’s right, you’re right darlin’ but there’s no reason to leave but she did, and glad she did.

She did leave. More than once, but the seventh or maybe it was the tenth time it finally took and then she was living in a quiet apartment in a neighborhood with red tile, a small swimming pool, lots of palm trees. A market on the corner, where she could buy eggs, bread, orange juice. She hummed dance tunes all day. She was that glad to be rid of him, with his plain solemn face and his stovepipe hat. Like he was an undertaker or something, not a screenwriter. Every day he put on his black hat, picked up his cane, and carried his briefcase full of scripts to the lot, where every day he was turned away. Selznick, Mr. Selznick, he’d say. Mr. Meyer, Mr. Meyer.

Meantime she was working full time at the Piggly Wiggly and getting bigger every week. She sat on the tweedy tailored sofa daybed, scratching her swollen ankles. Trying to imagine what it used to be like, the way it was before. Lots of laughs, lots of good times.

I am still trying to change you, she said to herself in the mirror. Same thing he’d said to her every payday when he was good and wrecked. Change yourself, she told him every payday.

She’s been looking for her knees lately. Breathing deeply, she put both hands at her center, pressing herself back together. She could see herself in the gilded hallway mirror. The glass brick wall showed fractured wisteria blooming outside the door. She stepped out, stood in the courtyard, hands on hips, feeling the warm Santa Anas blowing across her tight belly. She felt like a snow globe. Like an exposed secret. She felt like going away into the deep woods and not returning until her baby, whatever-it-is, is ready to come out of the pouch and into the sunshine, away from its daddy’s plain, solemn, dishonest face.

© Teresa Ybarra Phillips 2007


9 Responses to “Expectation”

  1. 1 Lollyloo December 17, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    I think back in those days the Piggly-Wiggly would fire you, when your pregnancy started showing.

    But spouses who won’t change, haven’t changed.

  2. 2 Lollyloo December 17, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    PS Great story, as always.

  3. 3 Teresa December 19, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Maybe. I doubt there was a firm corporate policy at grocery stores back then, more like a case by case decision. Anyway, thanks LOLOLOLLOLOLOLOLLYLOO

  4. 4 Kiley December 20, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Teresa, is this part of the novel?

  5. 5 Teresa December 20, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    oooh — maybe? I could make Zola Gorgon pregnant by a foolish screenwriter. Kiley, look up in the upper right hand corner where it says “Pages” — “Mayhem Texas” is the novel start. “Nanowrimo” is currently “Nanowrideiwa” (national novel writing dead in the water) until I don’t know, after Christmas?

    Thanks for stopping by – let’s keep playing phone-tag until something clicks —

  6. 6 davidbdale December 21, 2007 at 11:02 am

    I liked pressing herself back together, and fractured wisteria, and a baby in a pouch, and much more. Fascinating work, Teresa.

  7. 7 Teresa December 22, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Thank you, David. That moment standing at her doorway pulled me in strongly, really felt like an invitation.

  8. 8 truce January 2, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I liked the payday exchange on changing selves. 🙂

  9. 9 Teresa January 4, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Thanks, Truce. She’s holding onto the script he wrote for her, I think.

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