Write a story about my beautiful mother: A petite, light-skinned Puerto Rican with dark hair and shocking green eyes. Write about her nervous breakdown.

Write about the doctor recommending she terminate her latest pregnancy. That he knew somebody who could do it discreetly and safely. For more money than she had saved. More than Dad made in a month, and how he would never permit it anyway.

Talk about Rh incompatibility. But try not to sound clinical about it.

Talk about a wife’s duty to her husband.

Talk about the abomination of contraception.

Have a scene where she makes the mistake of confiding in the wives of the church elders. Where she’s told only God holds the reins of life and death, and she’s made to feel like a sniveling idiot.

Write about the impromptu trip to visit friends in Arizona, just an hour north of the Mexican border. How her friends figure out her plans, and drag her back to Jesus.

Tell us about her fourth fruitless labor, and how she added this stillborn’s name to the others in the family Bible, as if they would grow up, move away, and simply forget to call.

Show us how her green eyes dulled, how her mind went places we could not go.

Yes, write a story about my beautiful mother. Then tell it from her young son’s point of view. Highlight the epic road trip without Dad. Include the greasy roadside stands, the singalongs with the radio, the bugs swarming motel lights, the friendly strangers who talked funny. How flat and tedious America was. The promise of the desert after rain.

Write of the son’s disappointment at cutting the trip short, about the drive north before heading home, how he stood at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and watched his beautiful mother weep at God’s perfect creation.

***

Bill Merklee’s work was included in Best Microfiction 2021 and nominated for Best Small Fictions 2022. He lives in New Jersey. Occasional outbursts on Twitter @bmerklee.

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