Miriam Feder home


Five Very Short Stories

squirrel monkey

Before My Piano Lesson

Cat Woman, pale and severe, was systematic: first the older daughter; then the little one. She spit in her hankie and rubbed their faces. The girls were compliant.

Walking up the stairs for my lesson, I’d pray that Cat Woman would just read her magazine this week. I’d take out my book and wait to be called, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the wetting and washing. Maybe this time they would push her away.

In my heart, they painted their mother with lip-crusts and filled her old-age with sweat-streaked, grass-stained boys.

Fading Away, Mostly

Mom shuffled beside me through the grocery aisles. I’d pick up a few items; she’d have an outing.

She had no interest in things she used to enjoy. Instead, shoppers and selection overwhelmed her. But at the end cap, she grabbed a tin full of Matzo meal from the display and held it high.

“What a good way to package this—we should have had this years ago” she announced.

Here she was, for a moment—really her. She still knew a good idea, even though she couldn’t think one.

A Waiting-room World

I’d guess she was eight. She hid something on her lap. I bumped her shoulder, hoping to see it.

She recovered quickly and stroked softly with her fourth finger, pretending there was nothing there. No one saw it, whatever it was.

She dozed off before her mother bustled back in. Startled, the girl forgot her secret for a moment and the baby bird dropped to the floor, leaving a small streak of blood on her skirt.

Her mother shrieked “That’s disgusting! We must wash your hands right now.
What is wrong with you? Don’t you hear a word I say?”

To the Trees

Geography offered me five choices. I picked canopy. Apples, dust and guano challenged my arrival, but skin leathered and I rose. I passed familiar robins and crows. Shy new neighbors hopped away, surprised to see skin. It’s such a loud neighborhood, especially in the mornings. As dirt caked, broke and caked again, I fit in. Steamy winds pushed my rags away and left me sparrow-suited. Grabbers, flappers and buzzers friended me—arboreal facebook.

Capuchins laugh, squirrels nag and macaws complain loudly—the usual. My towering shade-home transports me—climbing, clawing and hanging around.

A Trip to the Zoo

Mike the polar bear loved his crowds as much as the marshmallows and nuts they pelted at him. High atop his haunches he was stronger than all and a master showman. My little peanuts didn’t make it across the moat.

On the way to the cat house, Daddy showed me again how to crack the peanut, rub the red husk away and toss both nuts into my mouth, all with one hand.

I loved the warm salty nuts, his thick red fingers, his bulging eyes. He was just like Mike—larger than life and a little intimidating.