Kathryn Curto

Kathryn Curto


Illustration by Pat Messina Singer



        It’s the boardwalk I tasted first. Lingered there on his tongue.

The sticky caramel corn and tangy Budweiser. Salt from the ocean.  

And on his lips, sweat.

Warm, too. Everything, warm. The Bud, the night air.


        But now, the licorice.


Earlier in the night, Berkeley Sweet Shop candy girl asked him, “Red or black?”    

           “One lace,” he said to her. “Black.”


Our tongues. Still searching and tasting, trying to find their way home. Hard, slow, fast, easy.  But gritty, black remains of the licorice rub against my cheeks.  And linger.

Haunting. Smearing.

Be a good girl. Be a good girl.


When company comes over my mother wears a special apron and usually makes macaroni with meatballs and a thick meat gravy.  Then, after dinner, she serves Sambuca. Maybe fruit, finuke and nuts, too. (Depends on the company.) And always a small, clear jar filled with black licorice. There are moments when it all looks very civilized.  My father offers the company cigarettes.  I check all the ashtrays and empty them when they fill up with stubs.   Like I’m supposed to do.


        My new boyfriend with the wavy brown hair and Adam’s apple and Led Zeppelin tee shirt kisses me again and again. But I am gone from here. Miles away from the boardwalk.

All I can taste now is the dreary kitchen at 847 Regency Court, my mother’s white apron with the gravy stains and the thick smoke from my father’s cigarette.



Kathryn Curto teaches at The Writing Institute/Sarah Lawrence College and Montclair State University.  Her work has been featured in The New York Times, La Voce di New York, Talking Writing, Italian Americana, VIA-Voices in Italian Americana and many other publications and anthologies. She has been a Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellow and an Engaged Teaching Fellow at MSU. Kathy also serves on the faculty of the Joe Papaleo Writers’ Workshop in Cetara, Italy. Visit https://www.facebook.com/kathy.curto26/ to connect on Facebook.