“Hello? Who is it?” his grandmother called from the living room. He couldn’t help dragging his feet across the soiled carpet, with his thoughts on how he wanted to be anywhere but there, weighing him down like a ton of bricks. Eyes, tired from years of small, delicate needlework, scanned him, searching for recognition. He gave her no clues with an introduction. Maybe it will be different this time, he thought, maybe things will get better.
She added her newspaper to the side table with a stack of crossword puzzles and sharpened pencils, next to it was a matching, yet empty, La-Z-Boy and table. On the table, along with dingy handkerchief, sat an empty ash tray with a wooden pipe. It was now cool to the touch, from not being used recently, the inside black from years of burnt tobacco.
Standing there, he knew that the 17 year old high school boy wearing a flannel shirt, glasses, and floppy dark hair he had seen that morning in the mirror, was never who she really saw. The sight of her eyes glossing over in happy ignorance crept down his spine, making him shiver, as a smile pulled her thin lips back.
“Oh Toni, you’re back! I missed you,” she said as she waved her hands urging him forward close enough to receive a kiss ...
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...esmerized, Dan watched as Toni took three heads and made their long, dry stalks all point towards his body. Slowly, another head, another stalk, was added. Expertly twisting and braiding the stalks together. Dan’s little stubby fingers fumbled, too small to hold the heads and braid the stocks tight. Holding up the braid for him to see, Toni smiled, each garlic head held tight together. Each head was smaller as they trailed up, like a family of ducks on a string. Toni exposed his bald head from under his cap and he used a dingy handkerchief to relieve it of the sweat and dirt of the day’s work. His once floppy black hair no longer cooled him. The flannel shirt he wore was stained and dark under the arms. In the house, he hung the braid on the side of the cupboard next to the kitchen window, puffing at his pipe to catch his breath. A halo of smoke around his head.
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