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The Water Woman

By Judith Turner-Yamamoto

Grandmother Green’s sharp voice leeches past the receiver my mother clutches to her ear. “He’s sitting up there at the service station telling all the men how he loves being on top, how he could go for hours. He’s got a boat and a trailer they keep out at Cheat Lake. That’s where he goes with her. See for yourself, he leaves his truck in the hospital parking lot. They’ve been carrying on for years.


My mother is stupid, her tone says, gossip fodder, a naïve little fool that has to be set straight. And Grandmother has taken it on herself to do so as quickly and efficiently as possible, calling Mama first thing so as to clear out the rest of her day so she and Aunt Sibcy can go shopping. “The woman works at the water plant. Sibcy went to pay her bill in person to get a look at her. “Plain as homemade soap,” Sibcy says. “Mannish even.”

     Mama sinks into the couch as if all the strength has been sucked out of her legs, as if she’s forgotten I’m here. I scramble out from behind her and sit attentively at her side, my comic book closed, dreading and anticipating the moment she will hang up and turn to me. I watch things build up, her chest and neck going red, her voice turning keen the way it does anytime she is upset or excited, which is a good deal of the time. “That’s a lie,” she says, the tremble in her voice telling me she’s not so sure. “He doesn’t like that position, he likes being on the bottom. Besides, he could never last that long, he can’t keep a hard-on.”

     Grandmother sounds a dismissive snort. “Maybe,” she says, “that’s just you.”

     At twelve, I have no idea what a hardon is, but it sounds dark and personal and not like anything she should be telling her mother. I wince, ashamed for her, for the weak excuses, useless roadblocks that in her panic she pitches in the path of Grandmother’s steely assuredness.



About the Author

Judith Turner-Yamamoto’s awards include the 2016 Seán Ó Faoláin Prize Short List, 2016 Fish Short Story Prize Short List, 2011 Manchester Fiction Prize Short List, and the Virginia Commission on the Arts Fellowships, among many others. Publications include Mississippi Review, American Literary Review, Village Rambler, Parting Gifts, Potomac Review, and Dash. She has taught fiction at the Chautauqua Institution, Danville Writer’s Conference, and the Writers’ Center, Bethesda, Maryland.