Brevity Sixteen

Brevity Home | Next Essay | Guidelines | Past Issues


The Secret Life of Parents, 1962

By Tom Whalen

My brother and I, age sixteen and fourteen respectively, are plundering the drawers in our parents' bedroom for money or the spare car keys or some artifact of our past (report cards, baby shoes, photos) offering whatever confirmation at that moment we felt we needed, when in the bottom drawer on my father's side of their dresser, beneath a stack of sleeveless t-shirts and his Smith & Wesson, I uncover a Polaroid of our mother nude.

"Look at this, Chuck," I say, handing it to him.

But we don't look for long. A black-and-white mid-shot against the same bedroom wall that's to our immediate left. She stands in an aggressive slouch, glares back at the camera, her breasts sagging (she's forty-three), her face an extremity of disgust.

"He took this of her."

"She let him," I say, staring at the sharp shock of her pubic hair, then put the photo back where we found it.

Tom Whalen has published nonfiction in The Missouri Review, Under the Sun,
Bayou, and stories in Ploughshares, The Quarterly, The Iowa Review, Quarterly
, and other journals. Recent work has appeared in Northwest Review, The
Idaho Review
, Hayden's Ferry Review, AGNI (on-line) and Fiction International. He
lives in Stuttgart, Germany.

Next Essay