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31 demartini Brenda DeMartini True Confessions December twenty-first, yeah, right before Christmas, I met her in the railroad station, peeking from under a baggy wool hat with shopping bag, supphose, sheepish smile, the works. To be stoned and anxious to see my old man was religion then; the red plastic seat felt familiar. I dug my ass in, knew the train would be two hours late. Beatrice wanted to talk, so I listened. "Poor Margaret, that's my daughter, my only," she said, digging through her Woolworth's bag for a tissue. "I guess she likes it up there in Buffalo, but it's so cold, and this year her pipes froze and all her plants died. She had a dog but he got hit by a snow plow. Now she lives alone, I guess. What's your name? Mine is Beatrice and I'll admit right now that I'm on welfare and not ashamed." "Mine's Debbie and I get Social Security," I lied — no motive. "Wonderful, I've been a Communist since my husband died." Sitting back with folded arms across the ample chest, she grinned, a coaxing Buddha. The people across the aisle shook their heads in unison. Apparently , they'd seen this type before. I'd seen them too, perpetual menopause victims. How could you forget faces like that, features held together with mercilessly sagging skin, eyes unyielding, mouths long untouched by bored and boring husbands? I stuck out my tongue. "That's the spirit, Deb," she said, and we became friends. By the time the train cranked in, I barely noticed Sam walk up the stairs, his old feathered black hat and army knapsack. "Hey, baby, missed you. The train ride was like really bad. Let's go," he mumbled, grabbing my hand. "Wait —" Beatrice craned her neck, the crowd swerving around her as they would for an accident. Margaret appeared finally, flushing pinkcheeked and smiling, like a lanky Campbell Soup Kid. "Good to see you, Mother," she said, brushing the chubby cheek with her puckered lips, labelling me intruder with her glance. "Nice knowin' ya, Beatrice. Let's trade phone numbers," I suggested, then gave in to Sam's sighs and tugs at my arm, leaving her and her bag of tricks reluctantly in Margaret's disapproving charge. 32 the minnesota review My habit of inviting guests home that my father called those unsavory characters began early: first the Holy Roller selling the Watchtower bulletin, who still stops by with her two illegitimate children sometimes. Then it was Bo-bo the human car. But I never expected to hear from Beatrice, who was at least seventy and self-sufficient. So a month later when my mother approached me with an envelope, demanding information on the identity of Beatrice O'Hara, I didn't even remember the name. "I don't know," I said, snatching the letter from her. She retreated to my bed, where I threw her an evil glance as I opened the birthday party invitation. Dear Debbie, Well, Margaret has gone back to Buffalo. I'm glad because she doesn't know how to act anyway. The matter about which I'm writing is my birthday which is next Thursday. My two cats, Queenie and Princess and I are having a little party and we want you to come. I'm going to be seventytwo . I'm warning you honey, I'm just waiting to die and not always the best company. But I'd Uke you to get drunk with us on my birthday. R.S.V.P. Hope you remember me, Beatrice On the edge of the bed, my mother leaned back, pretending not to watch me. Her green polyester bathrobe bunched at the waist, eyes narrowing to slits, the private investigator I called Mommy. Smiling, I threw the letter in my desk drawer. "Well, who is this person?" she demanded, with the determined grimace of a forty-five-year-old housewife about to make the business of her daughter a family matter. "She's an old lady I met in the train station, lonely Senior Citizen, all that sort of thing. I don't know," I said...


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