"What in the name of Vishnu...?!"
I stood in front of the local Perkins, stupefied. Mom was hobbling out of her car and turtling over to me. Both of her eyes were black and nearly swollen shut.
"Mom, dear God, you look awful! What happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
Mom wobbled on her bad knee past me. She nearly fell into the glass display of banana cremes before the hostess gently steered her to a table. Meanwhile, whispers were whispered and pointy fingers were pointed and a lumberjack fainted.
"Okay, are you going to tell me or not? I'm not going to sit across from you and eat a burger while you look like a clubbed seal on steroids."
Mom squinted and grimaced at her menu that she was holding upside-down. "I can't see," she sighed. "What do I usually get here?"
"You couldn't at least wear sunglasses like any respectable battered wife?"
"I don't have sunglasses."
"You're crying, Mom."
"That's just pus leaking out."
"Shall I call a mortician now or after we share a streudel?"
"I look like a raccoon," Mom moaned. "I tried to put some makeup on it, but it does no good--like everything else in my life."
"Mom, put down the waffle knife and tell me what happened!"
Mom gingerly touched at her forehead. "There was a dent right down the middle. But then it popped out this morning."
"Why haven't you gone to the hospital?"
Mom hung her head. "I'm just no good for anything anymore..."
"No, that's not true, Mom. You're very good at ultimate steel-cage fighting--where I assume you gave as good as you got. Ah?"
After the vaudeville petered out, Mom told me her sorry tale. She had been with Mimi, of course, and the old lady had been crying out for help in the bathroom. Afraid as to where this was leading, I held up a hand and begged Mom not to share any details. Not even a general outline. Or a whispered hint of a faint tracing of a vestigial whisper. Mom shook her head with Attic woe.
"I went in to see what the matter was, and Mimi was standing in the shower, crying. The poor soul. She had no idea where she was, just standing there naked and shivering. As I rushed in to get her I slipped on what I thought was a bar of soap..."
I covered my ears. Mom kept raising her voice to make sure it got through.
"But it was her poop! I slipped on it and I fell face first in the toilet! DID YOU HEAR ME?! I SAID I SLIPPED ON HER POOP AND HIT MY FACE ON THE TOILET!"
Everyone in the restaurant was agog and aghast. But in a good way.
"My mom, everyone," I said. "Let's give her a big hand!"
Everyone applauded. Some cheered, whipping about their paper napkins and banging their syrup dispensers together. There was only one tiny boo in the back. Who was booing? I looked around. Then I glimpsed the impish face before it disappeared into the night, cackling. It was Steven Schwartz. No doubt off to record a grade in his book. I LOSE AGAIN.