Selected Stories

“Angelina & Me” - Excerpt

South Dakota Review, Summer 2009

After I dyed my hair a deep chestnut and added hair extensions to match the pictures that had just been posted from the latest premiere, post-twins, I stopped at the bakery on my way to the hospital.

“Won’t matter now how fat I get,” my mother said on the phone. “At last.”

In the elevator I was upset there were no mirrors to check out the effect of my new hair, but I guess it makes sense in a hospital. Who wants to know what they look like there, after all?

But when I walked into the hospital room after not seeing her for five years, there was no excitement to see what was in the pink box.

“What have you done to yourself?” my mom said, deadpan.

“I’ve missed you,” I said. “You look beautiful.” If I would have actually looked at her, I would have been lying. Ever since she married her fourth husband, Goldman, she’d been on a campaign of diets and plastic surgery for the social whirlwind that was Palm Springs. But now that face had aged and sagged over the firm plastic parts, and the radiation and chemo had bloated her until she was more like something “inspired by” the way my former mother had looked. I preferred my old photos where I was a metal-mouthed teenager, and she was the beauty who stopped traffic even into her fifties. That’s how she caught Goldman—walking across an intersection in Palm Springs, eating an ice-cream cone that she dropped in the hundred-twenty-degree heat of summer. He pulled his Mercedes to the curb, bought her a Coldstone with berries mixed in, and loved her unconditionally ever since. Goldman walked in the door now, with lattes from down the block.

“Hi, Honey,” he said, gentle as if we’d only seen each other ten minutes before.