art by Seth Alan Bareiss
My Mother's Shadow
by Henry Lu
My hand is in the firm clutch of my mother's, my steps timid alongside her sure stride. I am almost as tall as her shoulders.
"Caroline, keep your head up," my mother reminds me.
A fat man in front of a deli spits toward us to show his contempt. After we have passed him, I feel the chilling hate in his eyes on my back.
I hear the disturbing sound when our feet crush the autumn leaves. Now and then, the setting sun sneaks out from behind the clouds, sparing warm light on our thinly clad shoulders. Then, as always, I am stunned to behold my mother's long shadow on the cobblestone street: slender, elegant, with a jagged edge.
I am proud of my mother's shadow.
A group of young men are smoking in front of a bar, each sporting the standard crew cut, wearing the Shadow of the Crucifix pins, their combined shadow on the sidewalk a menacing predator. They study my mother with a sneer on their faces, their lascivious eyes roving. "Here comes Mother Teresa," one of them sniggers, leering, "can I buy you a drink?"
My mother does not slow down. Without batting an eye at him, she says, "You can if you buy my kid a burger."
I cringe. They must be giving me the once-over now. The kind of second look one gives to roadkill from behind the wheel.