Adam sat next to his dead brother and his dead mother at the kitchen table, poured himself a cup of tea and sighed. Mom pursed her lips and refused to meet Adam’s eye. Zach had chocolate pastry crumbs all over the table cloth and Mom hummed “The March of the Toreadors”.
“I’ll be making a visit to the cemetery today, Mom,” Adam said, “to make sure your tulip tree is doing well. Should have new shoots, I think. We can talk there. I’ll plant Kingsblood tulips around it, what do you think?”
He didn’t mention Mother’s Day, so his voice wouldn’t crack. It was a bit of a sore point anyway, since Zach, now onto a jam-filled pastry, made a special point of ignoring his mom on special occasions.
The blind date tonight was another topic Adam wanted to avoid. They’d find out soon enough. Ever since passing, they were distinctly opposed to anyone moving on.
He was sweating already at barely eight in the morning — heat wave in May. He eyed the disappearing pastries, patted his gut. These days after crossing the apartment he was out of breath; sweets first thing in the morning was the last thing he needed. “You were right, Mom, I must be eight months pregnant. Of course you’re not helping, when you hover around but don’t take the ice cream container away.”
He went to pour kibble into the cat’s dish, tripped over her. Dead.
He was beyond pondering why.
It was the third death in the last six months and his conflicted mind said both, “I am jinxed” and “If disasters come in threes, the pattern is complete.” Mom and Zach seemed not to have noticed his stumble or the dead body.
Tasha, the blind date, called him at work, to say she’d arrive at the restaurant a little late. He longed to tell her he was cursed and would no doubt infect her with the bubonic plague, but she chirped enthusiastically about the restaurant and about how she was dying to meet him after her friend Nina’s praise, and Adam shrugged and decided to plunge in. He could not remember the last time someone wanted his company. But god, he hated chirpy women.
The lindens on the way to the Blue Star were in bloom, and Adam inhaled the heady aroma. After their last meal there, Zofka, the love of his life, told him she’d call the cops if he ever tried to contact her again. Walking along the cobblestones on the way to Michael’s Gate, Adam saw a glimmer of mom and Zach in every store window. He bought a bunch of carnations from a street vendor, popped into a wine cellar for a glass of fortifier. I’ll stand her up, he thought, sit by the Danube, poke my toes in. Better still, I could throw myself into the current.
He was sitting at a corner table when she waltzed in, large and luscious, billowing in flowers, and he had barely time to stand before she was kissing both cheeks.
“So stupendous to meet you, Adam. You look just the way Nina described you.”
“Dour? Funereal? Ridiculous?”
Her laughter tinkled through the cavernous restaurant. “Love a man who does not take himself too seriously.”
A waiter materialized, unbidden, placed a bottle of wine and two heaping plates of Slovak feta cheese dumplings in front of them. Adam poured two glasses, they clinked, and he drank greedily. She sat back, untied the kerchief: half of her long hair was coal-black, half white-blonde. Adam rubbed his eyes, then handed her the carnations.
“Thank you,” she said, reached into her portmanteau purse and pulled out a cockatiel. The bird squawked and began to munch the flower tops. She laughed. “He’s voracious but good company.”
Adam drank another glass and when he looked up, mom and Zach were sitting next to Tasha, one squished on each side.
“Won’t you introduce us?” mom said.
“Tasha, meet mom and Zach.”
Tasha stared as the cockatiel munched noisily. “Really, Adam?”
The headache behind Adam’s eye pierced through. Mom cooed at the bird and Zach held a fork, about to dig into Adam’s dumplings. The woman’s flowery dress, her knit brow…He threw a hundred crown note on the table. “Gotta run, Tasha, maybe another time … you’re lovely. Sorry,” as he rose and tripped over a chair. He held the ornate door open for his family. None of them looked back.
The work of Andrew Stancek has appeared in many fine journals including Tin House online, Frigg, Jellyfish Review, Peacock Journal and Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.