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22 the minnesota review Jan Frazier The First Cool Mother Since I got too old to love them, I have hated teenaged boys. They wear their insolence like the girls wear mascara — strolling across four lanes, cigarettes like Brando's stuck to their dry lips, leering at the chorus of horns. Figures, I like to say, hearing brakes squeal and seeing a boy at the wheel. Serves you right, I say, seeing one spread against his shiny hotrod at the side of the road, the flashing blue promising we are safer by one. It's my rule to move quickly from store to parking lot, car key stiff and primed to connect with the door lock, with a groan. One night I was making fast feet to the car when faster came behind me on the sidewalk, voices, male voices laughing, young male voices coming down on me. I knew I was dead. They went on past, laughing still. My heart was a bongo in my ears. So I was lucky this once, I figured. My boy is four. Day after tomorrow he'll be seventeen. Today I took him to a movie. We walked out, a stream of mothers and kids, meeting plastic wheels whizzing on blacktop. You could see the glimmer in the skateboarders' eyes: yippee, look at all the nervous mothers. I tried to steer my son toward the car. The boys flipped and rolled—airborn, some of them— watching women pull their kids to them and bark, "Come on!" They were in their glory. "Can I watch?" Michael asked, pulling my hand from his shoulder. I had a sudden urge to be different from the hens shuttling their broods to safety. "Sure," I said, amazed at the word. We stood side by side. The boys performed, fell, laughed. Frazier 23 One caught Michael's eye, smiled, then saw me looking and flipped his flourescent green board in a one-eighty. We went on to the car. Michael said, "Mom?" but I lost the rest. A voice behind us was saying, "That's the first cool mother that's come outa there." The sting of guilt was fleeting, washed clear by the blood of flattery. I could almost feel mascara gunking my lashes. "Mom?" he tried again, "can I have a skateboard when I grow up to be a man?" Amazed once more, I said, "I suppose so. Brando gets the girls." "What?" he said, cocking his head. His eyes raved blue and I went back to once upon a time (day before yesterday), when a blue-eyed boy swaggered by, cigarette dangling, and sent me to the moon with longing. I said, "Hey, you," and that was that. I was Queen of the Nile, he was Antony. Till Rhett came along and made me Scarlet. Et cetera. The day a cute young shoe clerk called me "ma'am" was when I took the first step down the road from love to disdain. From there to contempt, the slide was swift. But here's this blue-eyed boy, asking, "Did you say yes?" "I did." ...


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