backhand stories the creative writing blog

When the dinger went off, Jerome took the meal from the micro and rushed back into the living room. The Perry Mason rerun was almost over, and Jerome was sure he had the killer nailed.

The phone rang but Jerome didn’t answer. He let the machine take the message. “Jerome, this is Amelia. I’m pregnant.”

Jerome looked over at his mother. She didn’t say anything. Her old faded housecoat was pulled around her like a shroud.

“Who do you think the killer is, Ma?” Jerome asked. Perry was wrapping it up. Jerome slid to the edge of his chair, feeling all excited inside. Perry revealed the killer. “Right, right!” Jerome squealed, pointing at the screen. “I knew it. It was Amelia.”

Satisfied, he began to eat his TV dinner. The phone rang again

* * *

In the morning, he swept all the walkways like he was supposed to. Then he damp mopped the lobby, the elevator floor, and the laundry room. Someone had left a half bottle of Tide on one of the washers and Jerome put it on his pushcart. He liked his job in the condo; he often found things that he took home to his mother.

When he went home for lunch he gave her the Tide. “Here, Ma,” he said, setting it next to her on the sofa where he found a little space between the dead house plant Mrs. McMurty had given him two months ago, and the broken vase from the card room. The sofa was filled with assorted gifts. “I guess I’ll have to put some of your stuff on the floor soon,” Jerome said. He switched on the TV.

A game show was on while he ate his lunch and the phone rang twice. Roslyn and Dotty both left messages that they were pregnant. He wished they wouldn’t do that in front of his mother. He didn’t want her to know how many women he had.

The afternoon dragged. He met Mrs. McMurty on her way to the pool and she called, “How’s your mother, Jerome?” He said she was fine and wished Mrs. McMurty a good day. In the card room he found someone’s umbrella and took it home to his mother.

There wasn’t any Perry Mason rerun on that evening, only some documentary that Jerome didn’t understand. He didn’t know how to change the channels because the remote was lost. He had given it to his mother as a present but it was buried somewhere beneath her pile of gifts. He kept watching the documentary but couldn’t get the hang of it. He remembered how his mother used to say “no ending” when she didn’t understand a story.

“No ending,” he said as he looked beneath the items on the sofa. “Ma, why do you suppose they make up a story that has no ending?” He wrinkled his forehead. “You think maybe some people don’t want to come to the end?” He sucked in his breath and wished he hadn’t said that. His mother might think he was making fun of her. “I don’t mean because of you, Ma. I mean, you came to the end, I know, but..” He forgot what he was going to say.