Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their shih tzu, Sophia.
Joe’s stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller will be published by HSE in June 2017. Read the first chapters and sign up for his blog at joe-giordano.com
A Flash Fiction
By Joe Giordano
I didn’t know my birthday. I was abandoned at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, stuffed into a turnstile, the nuns’ interface with the outside world. Maybe my mother gave the delivery bell a tug before she fled, or maybe the sisters heard my sobs. All Mother Superior remembered was that it was raining. The girls who knew their birthdays received sugarcoated almonds. I got mine for the anniversary of my abandonment. Stale, chalky, I tossed them when backs were turned.
I grew up amidst a damp chill stuck to thick stone walls and stained-glass mosaics that dimmed sunlight. Over the years, judgmental gazes from a diminishing number of cloistered, old women in brown and white habits were subtle suggestions that I join their vocation. For punishment, they had me kneel on rice. Tough, not love; I have scars. At least, I was kept apart from the priests. They had hungry eyes.
Most of the girls were orphaned when their mothers died. They’d suckled at their mother’s breast; the most important thing in her life. In the monastery, they’d become a soul to save, disciplined rather than loved. Did they long for a mother replacement?
I’d not been important enough to keep. What need of my mother trumped me? Shame, poverty, drug addiction, or the convenience of her latest lover? Was I my mother’s gambit to wrangle marriage from my father? He didn’t want her, at least not with me. He probably pressured her to have an abortion. How many half-brothers and half-sisters had he bred along the way?
I grew attractive in my teens with long dark hair. There were no mirrors. I sensed the stares of nuns who averted their eyes when I turned. When I was old enough to leave the convent, I got a maid’s job at the Wayfarer Motel, one of those greasy-sheet joints that rented by the hour. I took the name of Adriana Esposito, like the hockey player. He could’ve been my father; athletes sleep around. When asked if we were related, I changed the subject.
I wandered in Flatbush, East New York, and Bensonhurst fantasizing that I was conceived in one of the brownstones. I imagined finding my mother, older, regretful, throwing herself at my feet, and begging for forgiveness. Except that I resided in the monastery a long time, and she never showed up.
I supplemented my income at the Wayfarer by servicing clients who had lingered when I came to clean their room. I insisted that they use protection. Maybe you’d think that I’d be a different sort of mother, traumatized by my abandonment, more nurturing to make up for what I never received. No. I’d put the kid up for adoption. She’d get a better mother and a crash course on the realities of the world. That’s the best I had to offer.