A glass of crazy, p.8
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.8

           Tina Laningham
A month later, the repairs to our Victorian house were finished and a For Sale sign appeared in the yard. Mom rented an apartment on the other side of Broadway. It wasn't the tiny white rooms with low ceilings that made it horrible; it was the bathroom Mom and I had to share. The bathroom itself was disgusting enough and the fact that we had to share it-well, that was like sharing clothes with your mother. Between generations there's an enormous fashion gap, even if your mother does shop on Sixth Street in Austin. What I'm saying is this: her bathroom stuff and mine were never going to mix.

  Since we couldn't afford movers, Rafa's brother helped us move what little furniture would fit in the apartment. I ended up with the smaller French furniture in my bedroom.

  When we finished moving, Mom tried to give Rafa's brother some cash, but he wouldn't take it. With his arm hanging out of the truck, he said something to Rafa in Spanish.

  I waved and shouted, "Thanks!" as he drove off.

  Mom stood in front of the apartment door wringing her hands and scanning the weeds that surrounded the building. "Come inside, children," she said to Rafa and me, as if it were not safe to be outside of our new home or apartment or whatever. Normally, I would've had a comment or two about how we weren't children, but Mom was sniffling again, so I decided to leave it alone.

  We moved some boxes off the sofa and collapsed in the air conditioning. For the end of October, it was still awfully warm.

  "What about the furniture that's still at the house?" I asked.

  Mom dabbed her eyes with a tissue. "We'll have an estate sale." She scurried to the bedroom and even through the closed door we heard gut wrenching sobs. I was getting used to it, but Rafa looked stunned.

  Noticing a funny odor in the wall-to-wall carpet, I said "She'll be okay."

  I wanted to gag. The carpet smelled like a dirty clothes hamper, except a little moldier. At first I thought poverty wasn't a big deal, but when my eyes started burning from the mold, I knew why Mom was crying.

  Mom advertised the estate sale in the local newspaper and by the first weekend in November, the weather had finally cooled off. At six forty-five in the morning, all sorts of people lined up and chatted excitedly in front of our big house. The holiday season had begun and it looked like people were in the mood to shop.

  Mom folded price cards in half and placed them on pieces of furniture. "I hope everything's gone by noon," she said, taking the rest of the cards upstairs.

  I peeked out at the line of people driving up, looking for places to park along the street. Rafa was busy in the kitchen doing something.

  "I can't believe your mother is selling her d?cor de United Nations." Rafa's hands gripped a sterling silver tray full of paper coffee cups with little pop-out handles. The coffee smelled like cinnamon and on the tray stood a tent card that read:

  International Coffee $1.00

  "What makes it international?" I asked.

  "Hey," Rafa raised one eyebrow, "I'm just trying to run a business. You know, furniture from around the world, international coffee. It's a sales gimmick." He moved in close to my face and with cinnamon coffee breath said, "The money's for your mom."

  At seven a.m., Mom descended the staircase with her chin up and eyes straight ahead. She was definitely nervous. She sucked in a slow breath and opened the door. It reminded me of all the years our home was on the Historic Houses Tour, only this time, they didn't come to gawk. Like vultures, they were here to scavenge the remains of our lives.

  Speaking of scavengers, Mrs. Applegate, mother of Megan, strolled in at the end of the long line that weaved in and out of every room in the house. Behind Mrs. Applegate were the mothers of Priscilla, Presley and Paige. It didn't surprise me when the mean girl moms didn't say hi to me, but when Megan's mom walked right by my mom without even making eye contact, I clenched my jaw and squinted. I thought Mom and Mrs. Applegate were friends.

  After the Triple-P Moms strolled in the parlor, Megan's mom split from the pack and sneaked back into the foyer where Mom sat behind a table with a cashbox. Mrs. Applegate dragged a chair over and carried on a low volume, serious conversation with Mom like they were discussing top-secret information.

  The Triple-P Moms circulated through the rooms downstairs looking more bored than three atheists at Mass. When they came back in the foyer, Mrs. Applegate sprang to her feet as if she'd been caught socializing with the enemy. Mom wrinkled her forehead like she did when she was confused.

  At that moment Rafa came in, but before I could stop him, he had lifted the tray of coffee to Priscilla's mom. With her arms folded, Priscilla's mom curled her lips and shook her head in disapproval.

  Mom rushed over to Rafa. "This is an estate sale, dear. The coffee should be complimentary."

  "Is he legal?" Priscilla's mother asked with a smirk.

  Mom froze.

  "Oh what the heck," Mom finally said. "Charge her for the coffee."

  I busted out laughing and had to go out on the porch to keep from peeing my pants.

  On their way out, Priscilla's mom said, "I didn't see a thing I would dare put in my house." She had that if-you-know-what-I mean look on her face.

  "No point in even going upstairs," said Presley's mom.

  Like a double agent, Mrs. Applegate stuck right with them. I was glad she was gone, the traitor.

  By early afternoon, the house was practically empty and Mom's metal box was so crammed with cash and checks, she couldn't snap the latch. Even the porch furniture was gone, which meant Rafa and I had to sit on the steps.

  "Your mom's doing good today," Rafa said. "She hasn't cried once."

  "Uh-huh." I checked my watch. "She's makin' money."

  "She'll be rich after she sells this house."

  I shook my head and gave Rafa the finger-over-the-lips quiet signal. "You wouldn't believe the things she told me one night when she was drunk," I whispered. "I don't think she even remembers."

  Rafa scootched in closer.

  "We're not getting any money after she sells the house."

  A big truck pulled up in front and two fat men got out.

  "I saw how much this house is selling for," Rafa said with a stubborn tone. "It was in the paper."

  I waited for the bubbas to go around us and whispered, "My dad's in debt."

  Rafa draped his arm over my shoulder and touched his forehead against mine. "So you're poor like me," he said playfully.

  If he was trying to make me feel better, it wasn't working. "Dude," I said pulling away, "she told me something else."

  Rafa's eyes widened big as bird splat. He looked a little too fascinated, if you know what I mean.

  I grabbed him in a headlock. "You've got to swear to keep it secret," I said, squeezing harder.

  "I swear it! Stop!"

  After I let go, Rafa fussed over his hair. He was so gay.

  "You kids gotta git outa the way," one of the bubbas said from the doorway.

  We moved to the shady corner of the gingerbread porch and the big-bellied men maneuvered that Chinese throne I had in my bedroom down the steps to the truck.

  "Come on, give me the dirt." Rafa struggled to not smile.

  "It's not funny!"

  "I don't think it's funny," he said. "I think you're cute."

  I didn't take that too personally because I wasn't going to be cute anymore once Rafa realized he was gay.

  "All right, look," I said, "when Mom was drunk, she told me the truth about why we have furniture from around the world."

  Rafa's laser stare seemed to search inside me. "And why is that?"

  I moved in closer and whispered, "Every time Mom caught Dad having an affair, she made him take us to some new foreign country. Dad always so felt guilty, he let her buy all this stuff.

  Rafa's face had no expression. He was probably afraid to say anything because he didn't want me to mess up his hair again.

  An elderly couple came out the front door carrying an English tea cart that was supposedly used at Buckingham Palace a few centuri
es ago. Behind them, a man in his thirties carried a German cuckoo clock.

  "Wow," Rafa said. "That's a lot of affairs."

  "Now you know why Mom's not crying about selling all this stuff," I said. "She really hates it."

  Rafa pulled a wad of one dollar bills from his pocket and counted them. "Here's twenty-eight dollars." He stuck the wad in my hand. "For your mom."

  "Rafa, you don't have to-." I got choked up.

  "Gotta go," he said. "We're going to my cousin's today." With an upward nod on his way down the steps he said, "See you at school."

  Oh god, school. As if I didn't have enough going on in my life. When the last truck drove off, I went inside and found Mom counting cash with baggy circles under her eyes. I tossed Rafa's wad of cash on the table.

  "From Rafa," I said in my most bored voice.

  "This oughta tide us over 'til money starts comin' in from the appliance store."

  Um, okay first of all, my mother speaks perfect English. And second, when did she get a Southern twang? This was not the ever-proper Queen Doreen or even the new young-and-sassy Mom who bought her clothes on Sixth Street. No, this was one-stoplight-town, swap meet Mom. I squinted and peered at her from different angles.


  - 9 -

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