New today in New Voices: “Lessy” by Jeremy T. Wilson. Continuing our celebration of the short story, “Lessy” joins The Masters Review catalog as an excellent example of the power of small fiction. Our flash fiction contest is wrapping up—perhaps this compact story about the strange draw of familial relics will inspire you to submit your own work.
Delia’s mother finally agreed to get rid of her collection of ceramic mammies only after she saw the movie The Help. She’d told Delia she understood now why they “might possibly come across as offensive to some people.” She’d lied. When her mother was dying of pancreatic cancer, Delia found a ceramic toothpick holder in the door of the fridge shadowed by ancient bottles of salad dressing and pepper sauce. The toothpick holder looked just like all the others: the cookie jar, the teapot, the spoon rest, the salt and pepper shakers; identical, except for the minor differences that fit their function. A red kerchief knotted atop their heads. Round, dark faces. Bright white eyes. Wide grins. A fat red dress covering an ample bosom, hands on sizable hips, and a starched white apron flowing to chunky shoes. Her mother had named them all, which somehow made an awful thing even worse. She called the toothpick holder Lessy.
Delia picked up the toothpick holder, ready to smash it on the kitchen tile, when her brother called her back to the bedroom and they watched their mother die. Delia was a hospice nurse, so was used to this, and even though it was her own mother, she approached the passing with a detached professionalism. She thought about curling the toothpick holder into her mother’s hand as the men from the funeral home quietly took her body, but she didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of being buried with this thing she was incapable of throwing away. Delia wrapped the toothpick holder in some dirty socks and put it in her suitcase and took it home with her when she left Georgia two days after the funeral.