Mother. Daughter. Late-Night Diners.

Audra Kerr Brown

We used to eat at places like this: chrome-sided dives bathed in neon where sausage tastes the way a Band-Aid smells and hash browns like cigarillos. “Cheap and greasy, the way you like your men,” you’d joke, but I never laughed. Not until you pricked my hat, my hair, my shirt, with the syrup-sticky tines of your fork and said, “You look like that comedian, you know, that guy who smashes melons.” Then you took a bite of my toast without asking. Maybe I was hopped up on adrenaline from the movie we’d seen, “a real bang-bang-shoot-‘em-up,” you’d said, or maybe it was the inordinate amount of caffeine and corn syrup thronging through my veins, but I took this insult as a thrown gauntlet, an invitation to spar with the master, an appointed time for the learned student to surpass her aging sensei, and I rose from my seat in anticipation of splitting you wide open with the weapon of spite that had swelled inside of me, exposing the fetid seeds of your unjust criticism, pounding upon your rancid flesh – rank with years of unwarranted accusations – me, swinging down, hard, leaving you gasping, defeated, ruined. Your rot revealed.

But when I caught my reflection in the diner’s darkened windows: my beret; my frizzy hair; my black-and-white striped, boat-necked shirt; I didn’t see a revenge-fueled vigilante on the brink of annihilating victory – just a bitter girl disguised as an 80s-era, male performance comic. So instead of getting angry, I laughed. Laughed so hard I farted. And you – you blew soda out your nose then winced because it burned.

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Audra Kerr Brown’s writing has been published in 3Elements Review, Sleet Magazine, Robot Melon, Postcard Poems and Prose, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband and daughter on a quaint farm in Iowa and can be reached at audrakerrbrown@gmail.com.