Contributor: Frank Holland

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      Mrs. Perkins asked her friend Jeanette, “Is that normal, for a man to give it a name?”
      “Give what a name?”
      “You know: it.”
      From Mrs. Perkins' timid manner Jeanette understood what she referred to; but, to make sure, she asked, “It?”
      “Yes, his-- ”  Mrs. Perkins's eyes closed modestly.  “ --manhood.” Then she reopened them.  “Do men do that -- call it by name, like it's human, like it has a life of its own?”
      “Well, sometimes it does.”
      “Have a life-- ”  She hesitated.  Although still in her forties, Jeanette was much more knowledgeable about contemporary life than Mrs. Perkins was.  “What does Cal call it?”
      George.  I just wish he would meet some nice religious girl and get married.  I want to have grandchildren before I die.”
      “If you want him to move into a place of his own, why don't you suggest it?”
      “Oh, I don't like to be pushy.  I don't want him to think he's not welcome here.”
      “I think he might even like that, living on his own.  But he thinks you need him here at the house.  And he doesn't want you to live alone.”
      “Or for that matter, I could move in with them.”
      “Them?  Him and George, you mean?”
      “No, him and his wife.  George, well, he goes along with him, of course.”
      Jeanette asked, “How long has he called it George?  All of his life?”
      “Oh, no, just recent, like he only took notice of him -- it.  Only in the past couple of weeks.”
      “That's odd.”
      “That's why I asked.  Isn't it sort of odd to give it a name?”
      “Not really.  I've heard of people giving names to, well, different parts of their bodies.  It's not really unheard of, no.”  Jeanette could have elaborated, but she didn't.
      Both women startled as the back door opened and Mrs. Perkins' son walked in.
      Jeanette nodded.  “Hello, Cal.”  He nodded back.
      Mrs. Perkins said, “Cal, look at these lovely tomatoes that nice young girl across the alley brought over.  Wasn't that sweet of her?”
      Cal gave them a perfunctory glance as he washed his hands in the sink.  “Yeah.”
      Mrs. Perkins continued: “So I invited her over for dinner tonight.”
      “What?  Why?  For five tomatoes?”
      “Because she's so nice and so kind.  She's such a joy to be around.”
      “Well, you be with her then; I'll eat early.  I don't want to see her.”
      “But she likes you.”
      “It's not mutual.”
      “But that's why I asked her over.  For you.”
      “For me?  To spite me?  And spoil my appetite?”
      “Because I know you like her too.”
      “I told you the other day, I do not like her!  She's a nuisance, annoyance.  I -- don't like her at all.”
      Smiling, Mrs. Perkins shook her head.  “That's not how I heard it.  I know different.  You like her in spite of yourself; you just won't admit it.”
  “What don't you understand about 'I-do-not-like-her-at-all!'?”
      “Well, part of you does.”
      “Well, it must be a part of me I'm not aware of.”
      “That may very well be.”
      “Last week when you asked me didn't I think she was sweet, don't you remember what I said?”
      “I remember exactly what you said.”
      “I asked you, why does she come over here all the time, what do you let her in for!  And   -- and -- I said she is a colossal pain in the ass!  She revolts me!  She makes my gorge rise!  So if she comes over tonight, you eat with her!  Not me!  You!  Because I won't!”  He slammed the damp paper towel into the trash and went upstairs to his room.
      Mrs. Perkins continued smiling with self-confidence.  “Jeanette, you heard what he said, didn't you?  The poor boy don't realize it himself, but he admitted it right out: she makes his George rise.”
      For a moment Jeanette considered correcting Mrs. Perkins, but she decided not to go there.

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I have had short stories published by several (over 20) publications, including Cicada, The MacGuffin, Oyez Review and Pleiades.
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