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SHORT STORY Talisman Banana

The banana was a vibrant yellow baked enamel, and it sat on top of the world. Earth was made of lapis lazuli and gold. The necklace was unique. Mother always corrected me and called it a talisman with a crescent moon. She could call it whatever she wanted. I called it the necklace, and if I was feeling exceptionally ornery, I called it the Talisman Banana. On long summer days, with no TV, because it rots the brain, I hid in corners of the house, concocting mousetraps. When I visited mother on the screened-in porch, she’d be relaxing in a rattan chair with cucumber slices over her eyes. The talisman banana would be around her neck as usual. I’d start singing as I raced through the room, doing laps through the kitchen, dining room, formal living room, and the living room. I could have toys in this room. “Hey, Mr Talisman, Talisman Banana,” I crowed. I thought I sounded like Harry Belafonte. I did not; even though I dropped my voice to its lowest register, I still sounded like an 8-year-old girl. “Those aren’t the lyrics,” mom would declare. She could only be bothered to flick her wrist in my direction as if I were a fly. Mother’s necklace felt out of place. Other mothers wore little crosses of gold or heart-shaped gold lockets. The hearts and crosses were crowned with a small diamond chip in the centre. They also wore these everyday pieces like talismans. The crosses protected them from evil. The hearts opened life up to love. On fancy pants occasions, the mother’s wore a strand of pearls. Each one trying to out Grace Kelly the other. Not my mother; she didn’t need a pearl necklace. Mom had the talisman banana. Once, while she was playing Barbies with me, I asked her why she only ever wore the Talisman Banana. “It keeps away the deepest evil,” she said. I wondered what the deepest evil was, but she’d never say.

It was 34 weeks since Dad had passed. Mom was handling it well. However, she didn’t want the big empty house anymore. So, we packed her up for assistant living at the Sweetgum Old Folks Home. As I taped up the last box, mom lifted the talisman banana over her head and placed it in my hand, palm up. “This is yours now. I have had it for long enough. Besides, you are 42. You could use it,” she said.

I didn’t understand. I didn’t like the necklace. I thought it was a good joke, sure. But as far as jewellery went, I found it a bit loud. My mom looked at me intently and gave a slight bob with her head. I put the talisman on, and I turned to look in the small mirror that still hung on the wall. We had forgotten one. I was right. The necklace looked gaudy against my purple sweater, but my skin had a nice glow. I’d never noticed how excellent the lighting was in this room. At the assistant living complex, we had a mix-up at the receptionist’s desk at Sweetgum Old Folks Home. “We’ve come to register and move in,” I said. “You?” the woman asked. “Oh, no, my mother,” I said. “Her?” the woman asked. “Yes, her,” I said. I looked at mom and started to realise how old she was beginning to look. When did that grey stripe grow in on the left side of her face? And those bags just now forming under her eyes. The skin around her square jawline was beginning to sag. She was starting to look like me. After we got mom moved-in, I ordered pizza. Mom settled into her recliner with a Coke and turned-on The Twilight Zone. This had always been her favourite show. She laughed that she had watched the show in prime time, and now she watched it on Nick at Night. I took fewer and fewer bites of my pizza. The room was cast with unsure and unfamiliar shadows. The TV’s light flickered across my mom’s face. Was it the downcast setting of the room, or were mom’s cheeks beginning to hollow? Mum slumped into her chair and looked down. I jumped to her side. I grabbed her by the shoulders and hollered in her face. “Mom, Mom, come back. I’ll do anything,” I said. Her shaky hand reached out and clasped the talisman. She snapped it from my neck, and youth returned to her voice. “I’m sorry. I’m just not ready to die, yet,” Mom said. My voice was dry and cracked when I tried to question. My eyes went wide with recognition. I was sinking to my knees. My mom’s face blossomed in front of mine. She pulled out of my weakened grasp and turned to the mirror in the entryway. Mom smiled at herself, and the smile chased the lines and wrinkles from her face. Her skin was dewy and tight. She almost looked like me 20 years ago. My mother was stealing my life, what was left of my youth. I should have watched my mother more closely over the years. I should have questioned how the years passed by without her and yet, etched the passage of time on my own face. I should have listened when she told me the truth. I should have held on tighter to the talisman banana. She eased me into the recliner with a patience and gentleness I’d never seen her deliver but to a Barbie doll. Mom smiled and granted me a thankful nod of the head. She grabbed my purse on her way out the door.

By Leah Holbrook Sackett. Leah is a short story writer. Her debut book, Swimming Middle River, was published with REaD Lips Press in 2020. It is available on Amazon and in select bookstores. Additionally, her short story collection, White Knight’s Escort Service, was recently accepted for publication. You can find her work on her website and Twitter. The image is from Andres Vera who can be found here.

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