Mama and the Close Escape

           Mr. Dominic Costello was always looking at mama's legs, too. He owns the six-suiter where mama and daddy Ben live at first in Chicago. The apartment Mr. Costello lives in takes up the whole first floor and it's full of statues and red velvet pillows. Mama lives on the third floor. Mr. Costello times it when she gets home from her part time job putting Carter's Little Liver Pills in boxes with each pill in its own little hole, and he always stands in the hallway and watches her walk up the stairs. She would hold her skirt close to her legs, but sometimes she would be carrying groceries in both arms and Dominic Costello would just keep staring up the stairway. One day Mrs. Costello invites mama and daddy Ben for a good Italian dinner with home-made wine like she does all the people when they move in to show them how nice it is to live in a Costello building. The dinner is delicious, mama says, maybe because Mrs. Costello is so homely looking she wanted to give people a good dinner because if they look at her with their eyes she's ugly, but if they look at her with their stomach she's beautiful. Dominic Costello is handsome but he's pretty thin. Mama and daddy Ben have a good time except that Dominic Costello keeps throwing glances at mama and she begins to be very uncomfortable. After dinner he makes them look at his gun collection, a whole big closet full. Mama never saw real guns before and they scare her, all sizes, long and short and fat and skinny. Dominic Costello says, here hold this one and here hold this one and he makes mama hold practically every gun in the closet. After that mama worries that he is a murderer or a gangster and every time he glances at her she gets the shivers. Now when she comes home with groceries she leaves them in the hall for daddy Ben to carry, and she holds her skirt around her knees and races upstairs.
           One day when mama isn't working and is home boiling water to try out the spaghetti recipe Mrs. Costello gave her, nobody is home in the whole building and suddenly Dominic Costello drives up. Mama thinks that's very strange because he has a regular job besides owning the building. He goes into his apartment and then comes right out and starts to clump up the stairs. Mama's heart clumps, too, because there's no reason in the world why he should be home in the middle of the day unless he's sick and if he's sick why is he clumping up the stairs?
           In a minute he starts to knock at the door. Mama doesn't even say, who is it? or, what do you want? She just shouts, Go away, Mr. Costello! But he keeps knocking and saying, Sophie, let me in, come on Sophie. And she shouts through the door, Mr. Costello, I'm a married woman. And he shouts back. Your husband isn't faithful to you, and keeps banging on the door. Mama's hands are on the handles of the pot of boiling water and she makes up her mind that she is going to throw it right into his face if he comes in the door. She says it might have killed him, but if it didn't kill him it would make his whole face scarred for life like a beast. Mama shouts, Mr. Costello, if you don't go away I will climb on the fire escape and scream until the whole neighborhood comes over here. That makes him quiet down a little and he just says, Come on, Sophie, open up. Your husband isn't faithful to you. And she warns him that she will climb outside this minute and scream her head off! She doesn't tell him the window is stuck and she never could get it opened. Then she hears him clump downstairs and drive away.
           That happened at about two o'clock in the afternoon. Until five o'clock when daddy Ben comes home, mama doesn't move away from the pot of boiling water. Whenever it boils down she adds more water, and she's ready to grab it and throw it in Dominic Costello's face. The next morning very early Mrs. Costello secretly sneaks up to see them, with her curlers and bathrobe still on. You better move out of here right away, she tell them. Don't wait and don't ask questions! Take your things and get out of here right away this morning!
           So mama and daddy Ben pack up their things in their two suitcases and leave Dominic Costello's six-suiter forever. Mama says she is so lucky, she thanks god every single day that Mr. Costello didn't turn himself into a raper, and she didn't have to
turn such a handsome man into a beast.

Back-cover page and where to buy: THE MAMA STORIES