map What is Deserved

by Liz Betz

Published in Issue No. 280 ~ September, 2020

Julie’s face hardens to match her thoughts. Sid might be her only son, but he has no right to tell her what to do. The wooden cremation container, now emptied of her late husband’s ashes, makes a great footstool. Haven’t other lodge residents said how clever she is to sew the little pillow for the top? As for the big glass jar with its paper liner – a picture of colorful candies, it is cheerful, and it holds the ashes just fine. What’s the harm? Granted, she should have glued the liner in place; the fine ash that clings on the inside of the glass spoils the appearance. Certainly, if she’d known how Sid would take it, she would never have mentioned her actions. But still. It’s her room, not Sid’s.

However, in front of that Blossom woman, Julie won’t say anything to Sid. She’ll remain a lady and sit at her tiny table as if this were a pleasant visit with a beloved family. There isn’t room for both Blossom and Sid to sit with her, so Sid parks himself in the old recliner, a huge piece of furniture that Herb insisted move with him. It occurs to her that she could get rid of it now that Herb has become mere ashes in a candy jar.

A very lady-like Julie pours tea and then passes the cookies that look like pieces of cardboard with sugar sparkles. They remind her of the teething biscuits that Sid would smear all over his face. He was a pudgy cheeked glutton even then.

Sid piles six cookies on his plate and begins his snack. His met-her-online girlfriend, Blossom, takes three in her first reach, then four more and offers Sid a second helping. Julie sighs. Gayle would have taken the cookies away from Sid, but that’s the past. Sid has divorced Gayle, throwing away a thirty-year marriage, separating Julie from the most wonderful daughter-in-law.

Crumbs from the cookies scatter over Sid’s huge belly where his shirt snap fasteners barely meet. Size XX-Large no longer large enough. His girlfriend is three hundred pounds if she’s an ounce. It seems she wants to feed Sid until he’s bigger than her.

Oh, Gayle. Julie wants to cry. Sid is wrong. He needs you, not this new arrangement.

Sid clears his throat – so much like his father that it warns Julie – what now?

“I’ve arranged a date for Dad’s ashes to be interned. Blossom thinks it’s healthier to have closure. She’s right, don’t you think?”

Blossom! Blossom thinks! Is that Sid’s game now? Well, two can play if that’s what he wants.

“I’m sure Blossom is a lovely woman, but your father said that you should be with Gayle, that you should never have let her go.” Julie averts her eyes from Blossom as she considers her words. Well, maybe it was her that said this, but Sid’s father agreed. For sure, they’d talked about this, and for sure, he thought the same as her.

“She’s lying.” Sid gently touches Blossom’s arm. “My father told me that he was glad I found you.”

She glares at Sid. “Those were your father’s last words!” Sid’s father’s last words were likely ‘good-night’ because he used to say that, often only that, every night, but for all Sid knew, his parents had long bedtime chats.

Sid rises from the recliner. “We should go,” he says, and Blossom tries to give Julie a hug, but she lets her arms dangle. The huge woman joins Sid at the door as they prepare to go back out into the winter. Their glances exchange ‘we tried’ ‘what can you do with someone like her?’

Julie grinds her dentures. Just go, she thinks. You’ve done your duty visit. Maybe by next Sunday, the recliner will have recovered from your fat ass, Sid.

Red-faced, Sid pulls on his boots while Blossom slides her feet into heel-less bedroom slippers, the choice of winter footwear when you can’t bend over! Julie waits to say goodbye, tempted to add ‘good riddance.’ Gayle would have put Sid in his place. Gayle would have been on her side.

Finally, they seem ready to leave. Sid’s mouth twists one way and then another as he searches for words. Julie wants to laugh. He never could spit things out.

“You know what Dad said to me a couple of years back? He said, ‘It’ll break your heart to stay in a loveless marriage.’ He knew what he was talking about, didn’t he?”

Julie’s mouth opens and then closes. How dare he question the love in her fifty-five-year marriage?

Sid opens the hallway door and pauses to say one more thing. The neighbors are bound to hear. Maybe Blossom suggested he stage this publicity.

“If you needed a footstool, why didn’t you buy one instead of using the funeral container we got charged $500 for? For Christ’s sake, why have you put Dad’s ashes in that jar…that garage sale crap?”

She had NOT bought the glass jar at a garage sale. She’d bought it at the discount store.

“What’s so bad? It pleases me to have the ashes inside a candy jar. It’s the sweetest your father has ever been.” There. Like it or not.

Blossom gasps, but Sid is prepared.

“Get too crazy…you will be kicked out of here. Do you want to be someplace with locks on the doors? Drugs to keep you in line?”

Sid takes Blossom’s arm, and the door closes behind them, whisper-soft. Julie staggers backward to fall into the recliner; Sid’s threat spreads like wildfire inside her. Her breath is ragged, her indignation scorches. Sid should treat her, his elderly widowed mother, better. She deserves better treatment. Julie blubbers. She tries to swallow her pain, but instead, a hopeless moan begins. She can’t stop. She hates Sid. She hates his foreign flower, Blossom. She wants Gayle: not anyone else. She deserves someone who loves her.



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Liz Betz is enjoying her retirement pastime of writing short fiction which has been published in a variety of markets. She writes from rural Alberta. To contact Liz, use her email address: