“The Best Bo,” by Mark Brazaitis

Apr 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

In retrospect, it might have been a bad idea. But Bo didn’t have the luxury of living retrospectively. He lived in the now. And what he’d done in the now, which is to say a month ago, was to buy his lover a coffee mug. On the otherwise white mug, in red letters decorated with tiny hearts, were the words Best. Mom. Ever. At first he wasn’t thrilled with the periods. Wouldn’t the message have been better without them? Best Mom Ever. Or even a full sentence: You are the best mom ever. But, as he thought about it, he began to like the periods. They made the message emphatic.

“What’s the occasion?” his lover asked when he presented his wrapped gift to her.

“The occasion of you being you,” Bo said. In his lover’s presence, he often felt inspired to utter off-the-cuff poetry. Most poets, he understood, wrote their best verse in their twenties. He was thirty-six and just getting started.

She unwrapped the present and lifted the mug from its box. She smiled. “I like the periods,” she said.

“So do I,” he said. They had a lot in common, Bo and his lover.

Like Bo and his wife, his lover and her husband, who was also named Bo, had two children. Bo knew his lover was an excellent mother because he and his wife lived next door to her and her husband. Their families saw each other frequently, sharing cookouts and other meals. His lover’s children always said “please” and “thank you,” and they always made it to their school bus stop on time. Sometimes his lover couldn’t meet him for sex in the hotel on the highway because she had to help her kids with their homework or take them to the dentist.

His lover examined the mug he’d given her and said, “I bet you really wanted to buy me the mug that said Best. Lay. Ever.”

There hadn’t been such a mug, and even if there had been, he wouldn’t have bought it for her because it wouldn’t have been true. The best lay he’d ever had came courtesy of a woman he’d dated in Germany during his army years. Her name was Helga; she was six-foot-two, smelled like a two-decades-old, diesel-fueled Mercedes, and had underarm hair a small animal could get lost in. But—mein Gott!—when the lights went out, she knew exactly what to do.

Bo didn’t like to lie, so he only smiled at his lover. She clearly interpreted this as a yes.

A few weeks after he’d given his lover the mug, she and her husband invited him and his wife over for a Sunday brunch. The meal was delicious: blueberry pancakes, eggs over easy, and hash browns with a touch of onion. Bo used to think his wife was the best cook in the world, but his lover was now a candidate for Best. Chef. Ever.

His lover served coffee to his wife in the mug that said Best. Mom. Ever.

“How sweet,” his wife said to his lover. “Did Bo buy it for you?” She meant his lover’s husband, of course.

But his lover misunderstood and, nodding toward the Bo who wasn’t her husband, said, “Yes. How did you know?”

His wife didn’t immediately understand. But then she did. “You bought this for her, honey?”

He thought about pretending to choke on a piece of toast, thereby changing the subject of conversation from the mug to the Heimlich maneuver, but he knew she would get him to spit out the truth eventually. So he simply said, “Yes.”

She gave him a foreboding look.

An hour later, back at home, his wife said, “I can’t believe you gave her that mug. Do you really think she’s the world’s best mom?”

He could have remained silent, but this would have been the same as saying yes. So he simply said, “Yes.”

He tried to explain: “It’s not like you’re a bad mom. But sometimes you let the kids stay up late playing on their phones then yell at them the next morning for not doing their homework. And twice this month, you’ve forgotten to pack a vegetable in Susie’s lunchbox.”

“We’re done,” she said. She was serious. The next day, he was living in a hotel on the highway. Only Bo came to visit him. One night they drank in the hotel bar and joked about giving each other a mug that would say Best. Bo. Ever.

But after they’d had coffee to sober up, they conceded that neither of them deserved that designation. The best Bo ever, they agreed, was a former professional athlete who played both football and baseball. There was also a musician, last name of Diddley, who was probably a contender. The two of them would have to vie for third place.


Mark Brazaitis is the author of eight books, including The Rink Girl: Stories, winner of the 2008 Prize Americana. His stories have appeared in Ploughshares, The Sun, Witness, Michigan Quarterly, and elsewhere. He has worked as a sportswriter, carnival-game operator, Peace Corps volunteer, and professor. He was once the deputy mayor of Morgantown, West Virginia.

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