Mama gave me the six female figurines over decades. She sculpted them for me. She told me the bloated breasts, rippling necks, stomach rolls and edema-filled legs on five of them reminded her of me. I was happy when she gave them to me because, for most occasions, she gave me a small check and that’s so impersonal. Why do they remind you of me, Mama? I asked. I can’t say I liked her answer. I don’t know, maybe their Rubenesque bodies, frumpy clothes, unflattering hair. Don’t you mean fat? I said.
Through most of her life Mama was a star. Champion diver, Teacher of the Year eight years running, Homecoming Queen. And now a famous sculptor. I was her sole disappointment.
The fourth figurine stands out. Her sea-green dress more colorful, her skin luminescent, pretty except for her too-orange hair and floppy hat. Mama said that was the time I lost forty pounds.
A few years ago Mama came over and insisted on hanging the figurines for me. She was angry that they smelled like mothballs because I kept them in a shoebox at the back of my closet. I told her I didn’t have enough wall space to do them justice but she still insisted on hanging them.
When she finished, the first four and last two were each exactly six inches apart, leaving a gap after the fourth, as if one was missing. I asked her why they weren’t spaced out evenly and she said, I left the hole on purpose. It represents the time you took that bottle of sleeping pills.
After Mama went home, I imagined taking the sculptures down and putting them back in the closet. Or hanging them closer together.
I left them on the wall the way they belonged.
Paul Beckman has two story collections, Peek and Come! Meet My Family and other stories. He has had over 300 of his stories published in print, on line in the following magazines as well as others: Literary Orphans, Connecticut Review, Playboy, Matter Press, Litro, Thrice Fiction, The Airgonaught, Jellyfish Review, and R.K.V.R.Y. He runs the monthly FBomb flash fiction reading series at KGB. His story, Brother Speak was selected for the 2018 Norton Microfiction Anthology.