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Spitting Image

By Joyce H. Berger

"You're the spitting image of your father," I was told, and I loved him, not her.   A chip off the old block, the acorn.  He took me to work with him on Saturdays at the Baker Brush Company, bought sandwiches for the sour smelling bums in Soho, before it was Soho.  He took his daughter to lunch with pride; a big shot to his little shot.  The spitting image of my father, I wanted to be like him, seemingly in charge, decisive, willing to spend money; attractive, a big shot who tipped his hat.

She was tight with a buck.  I wasn't interested in sewing or knitting or ironing or homework, that wasn't big shot stuff.  I was a chip off the old block, and I wanted to be like him not her, with a cigarette in one hand and a fork in the other.  He wasn't interested in her either.  Finances, reading, dinner, not important conversation; conversation is complaining about work, important matters.  Mr. Baker Brush, paint brush kind of the road.

Foldout postcards and telephone calls from all over the country, mostly the west: Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco.  Exotic, exciting, packing and unpacking ties, stripes and paisleys, all lined up like colorful soldiers in dress formation.  Shirts, mostly white and blue, occasionally a champagne, loved hearing him say champagne in his deep, resonant voice, and the shiny cuflinks in the the little maroon colored satin lined box.

I wanted to be with him, and I wanted to be like him, not like stingy her and he kept leaving me, leaving me to her and I wanted him, not her.

There was an old ragged black photograph album kept in the bottom drawer in the china closet, something secretive about it.  I don't remember who showed it to me and it was filled with pictures of my mother; she must have been no more than seventeen or eighteen.  She was thin then, stood facing the camera with confidence, her right leg poised at an alluring angle.  She had a perfect face, slightly heart shaped with Slavic high cheekbones, deep set widely spaced eyes, full luscious lips, and even in sepia tones.  I could see that her eyes were blue.  She was dressed in soft flowing feminine clothes with wide brim hats and matching gloves.

She was beautiful, a perfect face.  She confided in me once, that he was the only man who didn't try to put his hands all over her and then she wanted him to, but he was not interested.  I never asked her about her dreams which perhaps were within her reach, before she gave up, got fat, stingy and bitter and dressed in polyester.  The beautiful stranger in the worn photograph that I never knew, she could have been my mother.  I could have been beautiful; I could have been the spitting image of my mother.

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