Mimi Comes to the Door and No One Can Stop Her

by Francine Witte

“Dad home?” she says, looking past my shoulder like I’m going to lie to her. Mimi is one of those big, blowsy blondes you never think you’re going to meet in real life.

“He’s out back,” I tell her. “Garden Day, y’know?” Saturday morning and Dad wearing his Hawaiian shirt and straw hat. Likes to get his hands in the dirt, he says.

Mimi’s red lipstick is clown-mouth creepy, and she has blue eyeshadow at 10 a.m. It’s weird, but my dad finds her sexy. An interesting woman, he told us over supper after she first moved next door. I held my food in my mouth, not even a chew. I knew what interesting meant.

“How about your Ma?” Mimi says. “That’s who I really want to talk to.”

Shit, I think. She’s finally going to do it. Mimi’s had three husbands, and now she wants my dad to be her fourth.

It’s the first day of summer vacation, and I was looking forward to hanging out some at Jennifer’s pool. It’s only an above-ground, no diving or anything, and we all know her little brother pees in it, but still.

“You tell your mother yet?” Mimi looks at me, the top of her beehive ruffling a bit. At first, I think she’s talking about her and my father, and then I realize what she means.

“Oh that,” I say. “I was waiting to see if I get my period.”

“It’s okay,” she says, “If you have a kid and your ma don’t want you, you can live with your dad and me.”

It had happened so fast, me telling Mimi. I was sitting on the porch last week, and she drove up in her little Barbie convertible. She had shopping bags from Lindy’s, a tacky downtown store that has lots of nightgowns and garter belts in the window. I was crying because that was the day I usually get my period. I’m so regular, so lunar, Jennifer says, that the minute I missed, we knew.

Mimi sat down next to me. “People like sex,” she said, “it’s okay.” I don’t know, I could have lied. I really could. I could have said something like I failed trig, which I did, or that I’m scared I wouldn’t have much to do this summer, which I don’t.

Somehow though, when Mimi looked at me, I didn’t notice her eyeshadow, her botchy lipstick. I just saw someone who really listened to me. No one does that anymore.

But now, with Mimi standing there ready to swoop my dad away, I knew I had to stop her. Mimi was good to talk to and all, but she isn’t anyone’s mother.

So when Mimi asks again if my mother is home, I look her straight in her face. “No,” I lie. “Shopping Day,” I lie again.

My mother is, in fact, in the next room. Water blasting over the breakfast plates and how does Mimi not hear that?

“I’ll come back later,” Mimi says. “It’s time your mother knew. Your dad isn’t happy with her.” Then, she lowers her voice to a whisper. “And listen, you’re 16 but you’re old enough to know about boys, about men. How in the end they never do you right.”

I think about my dad. How aside from getting involved with Mimi, he’s a pretty square guy. Drives me to dances, gives me ten bucks whenever I ask. And maybe I do get the Mimi thing. Her other three husbands liked her, too. But I don’t want my dad to end up in one of her warnings about men some day.

I tell Mimi I’m okay. How I know about boys, and I’m sure my thing will work out because I’m starting to feel a little crampy, and there I go lying again.

“I’ll be back later,” Mimi says, and walks across our lawn back to her house, the heels of her leopard pumps sinking into the grass.

I hear my mother turning off the water. In a moment she will come out and have no idea how she was spared. For now. She will come in, wipe her hands on her apron and smooth my hair and think I’m still a little girl. She will warn me to wear sunscreen if I go to Jennifer’s pool even though I’ve told her how many times that I’m allergic.

In a couple of hours, my dad will come in, and we will all have lunch. He will still be wearing his garden clothes. He will dig dirt out of his fingernails. Good dirt, he will wink when he catches me watching him. I will look at his face, maybe the last time before Mimi comes back and flips our lives over like topsoil.

I will sit there and watch my mother as she makes peanut butter sandwiches, corn chips on the side. “You need protein and carbs to swim and garden,” she will smile at me and my dad. I will sit there, trying to will the slightest cramp into my stomach, and think how any minute, Mimi will knock again at the door. I will wish there was some way to stop this. Some magical way to turn us all into one of those tableau things we have to look at in art class. My mother frozen with the knife as she scrapes the inside of a peanut butter jar, my father wiping his hands on his Hawaiian shirt, and me, my mouth hanging open, as if too heavy with secrets about to spill out.


Francine Witte’s flash fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. She has stories upcoming in Best Small Fictions 2021, and Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton.) Her recent books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press), The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction), and The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (ELJ Editions). Her latest book is Just Outside the Tunnel of Love (Blue Light Press).  She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.


Image description: aerial view of a neighborhood. A thin street is surrounded by trees and brown-roofed houses.

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