Make this restaurant great again

In the triple-digit heat, three unmasked older couples sat out on the patio under the misters, sharing a table and talking with gusto in a release of all the gossip and opinion that had been bottled up inside them for months

I awaited my take-out order near the register, wearing my bandana over my mouth and nose and my surgical mask layered over it.

The waitress wore a Betty Boop mask. She had thick, long eyelashes and blue eye shadow. I watched her as she, wearing a pair of blue surgical gloves, poured red wine into three large goblets and placed them on a tray.

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On cheesecake

You can sit down to cheesecake.

Served on proper plates with a fork, you cut into it for a well-selected piece.

Cheesecake is romance food, and if you eat it solo, these are special moments with yourself.

To eat cheesecake is to dominate and get what you want: it’s pliable yet firm, with no falling apart at the last minute and little cleanup afterward.

Cheesecake is pleasure with precision.

And because you are being so decadent, you are accordingly proper while eating it.

Summer casualties

Everything colorful was gone from the woman’s flower beds, despite all her ardent work. The summer just wouldn’t allow anything other than perennial green now.

Listening to Chopin’s tender Nocturnes as dusk descended, I gazed into her yard at a wheelbarrow holding slender planks of oak she had acquired for a trellis. A large ceramic pot sat hollow inside the wheelbarrow belly, along with smaller plastic pots — summer casualties, all lumped together and parked in the shadow of an awning.

Sunday morning at Charlie Frias

Up ahead I see a man lounging on the pavement in shorts — no shoes, no socks, no shirt. Leaning up against a utility box, he is a white man tanned browner than a band aid. His feet nearly reach the curb, so I step off my bike and wheel it gingerly past him. We exchange good mornings, and I hop back on and head toward Tropicana Avenue to hang a left.

It’s warm out for my first trip to Charlie Frias Park in Las Vegas. Riding on sidewalks is legal here, so I take advantage of it sometimes when the streets have no bicycle lanes.
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My story is online at Entropy magazine

My creative nonfiction story The Size of Hummingbirds was posted yesterday at Entropy magazine.

There was an American robin on a bough above us guarding its nest. I had pointed it out to Rob, as well as the male grackle that had been looming higher in the tree for several days, as if setting its sights on raiding the nest.

The story is included in Entropy’s ongoing series The Birds, which features fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and essays.

My great-grandmother lived into her late 90s

In my late great-grandmother’s building on Bathgate Avenue in the Bronx

about a block from my old Catholic elementary school
the stairs creaked like a rocker on the front porch
they had resonance as if empty crates walked upon.
A skunky amalgam of boiled cabbage and potatoes
still in their dusty, cratered skins always permeated
the air as I climbed to the third floor for a visit.
They were the smells of death and aging
but still I knew they were not emanating from my
great-grandmother’s since she was from Sicily (died in her late 90s)
and cooked accordingly. Besides, she did mostly baking:
Those cookies she’d make by the batch, we had named
them “rocks,” crafted with a thick chocolate glaze stiffened
to a shell, and the inside with nuts and dried fruits
and all the warmth and texture of the earth.
They had a shelf life of almost forever

The mushroom lady

The mushroom lady is afoot after a winter-long downtime. She has the air of someone who worked in retail or perhaps an administrative office in a grade school. In her Old Navy shorts and button-down shirt and her hair done like Margaret Thatcher, she prowls the grounds of the apartment complex for sprouts of fungi. Then she sits on the ground and tears away tufts of the lawn like a kid in a sandbox.
Did her line of work have her yanking out hair of her own?
Or maybe she suffered a broken heart?
A widow, sometimes she uses
her two small dogs as a ruse
to go digging for mushrooms
more than once a day, the
yield stashed in a plastic
bag in lieu of poop,
which she allows
the dogs to do,
but she does
not bother
scooping.

A note about perfection

I sit in the morning, tweezing my eyebrows, my coffee turning lukewarm. Over the past few days, my hairs have gathered like the poppy seeds on my toasted bagel — a small colony near the tail of my left brow, spread out like the homes of a suburb on the periphery of a city. But in the same region of my right brow, there is noticeably less density.

In another hindrance, my laser tech fucked up my left brow years ago just above the inside corner of my eye, leaving it sparse, like the crown of a 70-year-old woman. So duh, of course I try to make the other one match, and therefore I tweeze appropriately. Or sometimes I will go in with a brow pencil — dark brown, which always seems to be a mismatched shade, anyhow — in an attempt to correct the scalded one.

In my psyche lurks the deep-rooted illusion of symmetry, a resident phantom that is only mathematically possible yet takes up quarters in the recesses of my brain’s frontal lobe, filed under “beauty standards.” But reality suggests that no two eyebrows are alike. On top of that, my right wrist is thicker than my left; the left side of my face is more flattering than my right; and I am a friendlier, more talkative person after coffee, a sort of Jekyll and Hyde, as many of us are.

I struggle with my brows. Defying all reason, I want both arches to crest above the outer borders of my iris, as is recommended in diagrams for the shape of my face. The lines must aspire to the appearance of bent iron or the malformed finger of the nun who scolded me in grade school when my desk failed to line up like a domino alongside the others in my row.