Nebraska Center for Writers

A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY
by Ladette Randoloph

Lena Bradfield walked past her mother three times at the bus station before she recognized her. It was her hair. Dyed a jet black, it had been ratted and back combed into an elaborate bouffant.
"Ma?" Lena said when she finally recognized her. "What'd you do to your hair?" Her mother seemed bewildered by this greeting and absently patted her hair as though to remind herself what had happened. "It looks like Elizabeth Taylor's," she said then.
"Says who?"
"Myra, over at Geltone."
"Don't believe it for a minute," Lena said.
Her mother's face fell. "It doesn't look like Elizabeth Taylor?"
"It looks like shit, Ma," Lena said then swooped to kiss her and help her to her feet. She picked up her mother's suitcase and the paper shopping bag she always brought filled with newspapers, knitting, half-eaten packages of cookies, and canned foods. Her mother clutched a bulging black patent leather purse.
"How are you?" Lena asked as they pushed out the door of the bus depot.
"Oh, you know."
"How was the trip out?"
"Long. I talked to a nice lady who got on in Ohio. She got off in Iowa. She was going to visit her daughter too. We don't understand what you're doing all the way out here in the Midwest."
Lena opened the trunk and loaded her mother's things. "Ma, why do you bring so much? You think we don't have newspapers or food in Lincoln? What?" Her mother shrugged and smiled vacantly.
Once everything had been packed in the trunk, Lena helped her mother into the passenger side of the car.
"Where's Carl?" Her mother looked around the car as though she thought he might be hiding in the backseat.
"He's at home. You'll see him when we get there."

Carl made dinner that evening, his specialty, Thai Lemon Grass Soup. While Lena cleaned the dishes afterwards he asked, "Mrs D, would you like a bump of scotch?"

Reprinted with permission
from Passages North
Copyright © 1999
by Ladette Randolph


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