pages To a Cockroach on an Antique Cocktail Table

by Ann E. Bergin

Published in Issue No. 13 ~ June, 1998

I see you there, Beauty, mahogany oval, drop leaf wings, spindle legs, every joint so smoothly tongued and grooved you could be all one piece. I wonder that you have no claws, not that it matters. Grandma is eighty-six and nearly blind. Craftsmanship is not important to her anymore. Just shine. She cares about the shine. It takes hand rubbing, yes, and time to get a gleam like this. Even then to get it right, sometimes when everyone’s asleep, she comes downstairs in crocheted slippers, size five feet making shuffle sounds against the carpet in the dark while she pulls her robe’s long sleeve down, grasping its hand-rolled edge with just her fingertips so she can run a silken palm back and forth and back across the table face. Afterward she cracks the parlor window and lets the gauzy curtain flow there in the darkness like a sail until the streetlight, which always has believed itself a moon, mistakes the table for the lake where she used to skinny dip on summer nights-and not with Grandpa either. She touches the collar of her robe to her cheek, then to her parted lips. You have to understand, she was barely 30 when Grandpa went to war. When they told her he was dead, she wore white for two full years. Which was enough. Her eyes were clear and golden then and her underclothing moved against her body when she breathed. Grandmothers here in town still clear their throats and look up at a corner of the ceiling when they hear her name. It’s all quite delicate and has to do with shadows and reflections, keeping your napkin in your lap and not staring. It has to do with tilting the light to suck up shadows through the cracks and from the rounded places that require gloves and no expression. Later, you will rise on your six tall legs and walk on past her, inconspicuous as a banker.

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Ann E. Bergin is a freelance writer/editor and M.F.A. candidate in creative writing-poetry at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. In an earlier life, she was a university administrator.