"Last Meeting of the China Moon Pain Club,"
a story featured in Painted Bride Quarterly
“It’s not a club.” Anne crinkled the cellophane off a new pack of cigarettes. “It’s a support group.”
This story of a daughter doing her best for a mother who is nearing the end of her life--and for whom every get-together is possibly "the last"--was published in Painted Bride Quarterly 79 (2008): pages 302-315. The action concerns a Chinese buffet, a push to produce babies, and a wait to see who comes to visit the hospital at life's very end.
You can click on the button to read the story on Painted Bride's website, or start with the excerpt below.
May your last time not come for a long, long while.
Irene gave herself credit for trying. She had made an honest effort. But no amount of urging could convince Anne to celebrate her birthday in a real restaurant, one with table service rather than a buffet: It was the Santa Fe China Moon or nothing.
“It’s our tradition,” Anne insisted. “Yours and mine and my group’s.” She took a final sip from her mug of Earl Grey, then dumped the rest in the sink and hooked the scratched plastic cup back onto her ugly old thermos, the bane of Irene's visits. Anne had lost the original metal cup years ago, and the whole thing made them look poor and careless.
Anne said, “The waitresses know us, and I like the way they do their egg rolls. Besides, pumpkin, you don’t have much money, and I know you’re going to insist on treating.”
Irene conceded the point with a mixture of guilt and relief. It was true that she was beyond broke, and yet it was only appropriate that this birthday lunch for Anne and her friends would be her treat. At thirty-two years old, she should have been able to do better than all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Carrying the thermos, she helped her mother down the narrow cement steps in front of the duplex, then folded the now-frail body into the front seat of the Rent-a-Wreck she had acquired when she flew into Albuquerque.
“This just might be my last lunch in a restaurant, after all,” Anne added, not looking at Irene....
Eggroll image from
The New Mexico landscape near Santa Fe, from Wikimedia Commons.