Whatever happened to Daddy, I ask my mother one morning.

Getting two bowls out of the cabinet, she says nothing.

So I repeat the question. Your husband, my father - whatever happened to him?

He forgot the way home, she says. She sets the box of cereal before me.


He went out for milk and never came back.

Oh, I reply. I understand. And satisfied, I chomp on a spoonful of dry corn flakes.

Entering the bar, the soldier makes note of the women in the place. Aware that he is in enemy territory, he proceeds with caution, hoping to avoid the blue-eyed landmines threatening to rip his pride from under him, scattering it like shrapnel, raining down from all sides.

She was cute and in his seventh grade math class. She wore white bobby socks and had dark pigtails with ribbons. Sometimes he gave her candy or did her homework.

Before school ended for the summer, there was a dance. He was there. She was there. They danced four times, but no slow ones.

At the end of the evening, he asked if she would let him kiss her.

Yech, she said. I don't think so.

Yes! You’re right! My period started today. But believe me, that  has nothing to do with this!

Copyright © Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz 2003. The extremely short story “It’s An Old Joke” originally appeared in Facets III, 1, January 2003. Title graphic: "Four Stones" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2003.