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FICTION / The Big Bambu / Robert Libbey


Midnight and Mom hits up my cell: Munchie’s run? 31, off the hamster wheel and comfortably lodged back in my old room: I’m all in, a thumbs-up emoji my reply.


She’s hooked on Bugles. The tatted cashier nods approval. “Let’s face it, Mom’s a pothead,” I text my brother. Beside himself, a coast away: “She’s out of control with the messages, you know, the kids have homework.”


“Look, I love your brother, but he’s a tight-ass: I’ve already had two fathers,” she says, meaning hers and mine, “I’m over that.” Still stinging from a strict upbringing (+ marriage) she’s a late bloomer: a middle-aged, rebellious teen.


Why should I complain? “One day, all this will be yours,” she gestures at the carnage of the living room. Stripped of all the vestiges of wifely (and motherly) duty she lets it all hang out, sinking into a cushion. The table’s littered with paraphernalia: empty chip bags, packs of rolling papers…


The afternoon routine begins. She runs her tongue to seal a spliff. The turntable spins Dad’s remaindered Cheech & Chong. “Sister Mary Elephant” is her favorite: a deranged substitute teacher who’s lost all order in the classroom. The tracks meld one into the other. LOL: two feet away, she texts me; the cell: her new life-line.


“She’s posting weird selfies to Instagram,” my brother bothers. Ah, dog face filters: the button nose, the close-cropped hair now frosted pink. Nice. This medicinal weed’s some dope shit. I see she’s crying; then laughing. The couch tilts sideways; imperceptibly, day clicks to night.

The record skip wakes me. How long has she been staring at me? Glassy-eyed, she says, “You’re my favorite pupil.” “I thought I’d disappointed you.” Smiling she shakes her head no, gets up, unsteadily.

The room’s dark, but I’m seeing her in a new light. Desperate, my brother has sent me a fresh text, “she’s signing her messages with a strange signature. Who is this woman?

I remain mum.

Mom opens the album cover as I restart it. “Let’s Make a Dope Deal,” drops. She pulls out the actual, gigantic rolling paper (a marketing gimmick) that came with the record. “Bucket list,” she says, only half joking. 

Wired, she won’t sit. The skit is tight but it’s hard to concentrate. Her restlessness is contagious; driven by the mother of necessity (the will to live) she’s become a force of nature. Our cells hum. The message: let’s rock n’ roll kids; let’s get our nightly fill.

One foot out the door, one foot in I shoot back my brother: this woman?!

Robert Libbey lives in East Northport, NY. His work has appeared previously, or is forthcoming, in The New York Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Blue Lake Review.