Acey’s parents wanted her to get a job. “For Social Security,” her mother said.

“Anti-social insecurity.” Acey smirked.

“And so your employer can pay your health insurance,” her father added brightly, so brightly Acey had to put on her shades. Her new wraparounds. They wrapped around her face and shielded her from her parents.

“Must you?” Acey’s mother sighed. “You have such a pretty face.”

“Must be that age,” Acey’s father said.

Acey blinked, taking a mental picture she titled “Parents Trap Daughter At Kitchen Table.” She imagined the scene on a postcard she showed to passerby. Out loud she announced, “Six-squared.”

“That right, dear. You’re thirty-six now.” Acey’s mother squeezed her hand. Her mother’s hand felt like a soapy sponge. It was a soapy sponge. Acey laid it on the nice, clean, plastic sunflower tablecloth to give it a rest from dishwashing. Even sponges deserved a vacation.

“You’d look more attractive if you flattened down your hair,” Acey’s mother said, drying her hands on an old gold dishtowel. The towel showed maidens in blue frocks milking cows. If you touched a cow in the right place, it mooed.

Acey touched the cow’s stomach.

“Moo,” the cow responded.

“That’s cow for I like my hair,” Acey said.

“Moo,” said the cow.

“Acey,” Mother warned.

“I didn’t do it. That cow has a life of its own.”

“I hope you’re spelling ‘its’ properly,” Acey’s father Sternly said. His name was Sternly, but his colleagues called him Stern. He turned a page of The Daily Dairy Diary, which the cow community published for milk drinkers.

“Its—no apostrophe,” Acey recited. “May I please be excused?”

“Excused?” Acey’s mother glanced up from bed sheet folding. She was a sportive bed sheet folder. She didn’t do it professionally. She didn’t do it commercially. Sometimes she practiced on stationery sheets.

“Thank you.” Acey remembered she was six-squared and could do as she pleased. As she got up, her mind’s eye snapped another shot, “The Excused Need No Excuse.”

“No allowance for you this week.” Stern rustled the newsprint.

“Then I’ll get a job,” Acey said.

“Our daughter’s come to her senses,” her parents chorused, beaming.

<>

“And this postcard depicts NuRotic at night,” Acey told the crowd. Tourists loved her tours of the postcard racks.

“Could you please speak up? You have a soft-spoken voice,” said a lady in an embroidered neon pink short-sleeved dress and high heels.

“NuRotic at night.” Acey’s shout made the cards rattle in their perch.

“Why, it looks just like Yew-Ott, our Eastern Seaboard gem.” The lady’s eyelashes tickled the photo of a twinkling star alone in the mist. “Isn’t that right next door?”

Acey didn’t respond. Her picturesque hometown postcards enticed those who, stuck in the usual drawbridge traffic, wanted to stretch their legs and gulp in sea salt air, before climbing back in their cars. She didn’t want to reveal that to the woman and lose her clientele. She wanted to present her hometown as an exotic locale.

“My favorite postcard is this one of the beach,” Acey continued. “See how the rocks kiss the sand and surf?”

“How do you know they’re kissing?” A man in a white tea shirt sneered. The shirt was manufactured from tea leaves and smelled like the earth after a good soaking.

There was one in every crowd, Acey noticed. “This over here,” she said, trying to ignore the man. Her shades were a cool reassurance against her cheekbones. Good thing her wraparounds were still around, since he reminded her of Stern, and she needed protection. “This over here,” she repeated, yelling, in case anyone fell prey to her soft-spoken voice. “This rack has the best deal in NuRotic. Twenty cents a card or six for a dollar.”

“Is that Canadian or U.S.?” the man asked. His skateboard click-clicked when he flipped it. “How do you know it’s the best deal? You do a survey?”

“Serious inquiries only,” Acey said. She picked up an orange megaphone. “As a matter of fact, I did do a survey. The drugstore down the street came in close second with twenty-five cents a postcard. American dollars. I am doing research on worldwide postcard currency.”

“Ooh, exciting,” a woman murmured. “Very exciting.” Her aroma lingered, a familiar guest, in Acey’s nose. Her mother’s lavender dish soap. Acey had left her parents behind, only to find them on her tour.

“Any other questions?” Acey was tired of standing on her feet. Granted, life could be worse and she could be standing on her hands.

A woman jumped up and down. “Can we actually see these picture postcard sights?”

No one was satisfied with a mere glimpse into a snapshot, someone else’s idea of how life should be. They wanted it for themselves: more, more, more.

 


 

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Eva M. Schlesinger has received the Literal Latte Food Verse Award and is the author of four poetry chapbooks, including three whose covers she designed. Her flash has appeared in Atlas & Alice, Tattoo Highway, Riggwelter, former cactus, and elsewhere. Eva has twice been a Grand Slam contender on The Moth Stage, where she made the audience of 1,400 laugh nonstop.