Sunday Stories: “Everything New is Old Again”

Pen and Paper

Everything New is Old Again
by Lisa Lipkind Leibow

Creamed corn and chicken chase Lysol into her nostrils as she slows her motorized scooter to a stop at the dining hall entrance. Elizabeth notices an opening at the far side of the nurse-made clique of biddies who swallow bottom lips and stare into space.


Friday was pizza day. Rectangles of bread with tomato hunks and cheese gobs didn’t stop Libby from gagging at the lingering stench of yesterday’s chipped beef and mashed potatoes that looked like drool-covered paste. The popular kids sat together at the table near the exit. They taunted pubescent, bookish girls with headgears and pimples, tripping or knocking lunch trays to the floor.


Elizabeth shuns the table by the window, where a pink sunset transforms blue hair to purple. Echoes of the guys’ whooping, while a stewardess in movie night’s showing of Airplane blew the inflatable autopilot. One of the biddies removed dentures and motioned come hither with a coy wink, as if that might firm up geezers’ shriveled parts.


As Libby treaded to avoid the in-crowd’s table, the buzz of child’s play and adult escapes collided—invitations to smoke packs of Marlboro’s on the playground and offers for schnapps-spiked McDonald’s milkshakes. Hell, stoned she might have felt more comfortable than a trussed turkey in the stupid training bra. 

That’s when it began. Libby thought nothing of the first sneeze from the yellow pompadour at the cool kids’ table. By the fourth sneeze, she realized he was pointing a grimy index finger in Libby’s direction, sneezing, “Stuffy!” Instantly, the pain of the bra band digging into her rib cage disappeared the same way smashing a thumb with a hammer obliterated a headache. Soon, everywhere, slick-haired boys with saddle shoes and flat-chested girls with sweater sets taunted Libby. She hunched over, trying to concave her chest.


Geriatrics may be old, but they are as immature as pubescent pimple-faces. Her heart thuds in her ears—a sound that in her youth meant she was running in the zone, but now, coupled with her dry throat and muddled brain, signifies fear. Elizabeth hadn’t noticed it before, but the seat belt on her scooter digs into her spleen. If she still had a gallbladder, appendix, or uterus, it would dig into those too. 


She glued her eyes to the tip of her pen, which she zigzagged to and fro, drawing tiny funnel clouds on her book cover. 

“Maybe they’re her brother’s gym socks,” said a girl with a pink scarf knotted at her neck.

Libby’s twister-doodles had begun to swirl inside her lungs. She mumbled, “What do they know?”

When the yellow pompadour started prancing, pinching his shirt and pulling to mime pointy boobs, Libby shoved the kid. “If I were going to stuff my bra, don’t you think I’d do a better job?”


Elizabeth wheels to a spot between blue-haired gossips and shriveled men. She’s taken so long to choose a seat that dinner’s almost over. 

A liver-spotted man with a comb-over places tapioca pudding in front of her. “My daughter brought a few pairs of those World’s Softest Socks that you like. I’ll give you a pair if you want,” he says.

Elizabeth meets his green gaze. She stares and her insecurities fade into the cloudy cataract in his left eye. Something stirs in her that moment. It might be the warmhearted look. It might be the texture of tapioca pressed between tongue and roof of mouth. Perhaps it’s the promise of toes wrapped in yarn softer than cashmere. She’ll never know for certain what caused the paradoxical, alone-in-a-crowd breathlessness that plagued her life’s seasons to get lost in the fog.

She reaches for his hand. “What do you know? I’d like that.”




Lisa Leibow is an author, academic, attorney, and activist. She is a 2022 Pushcart Prize Nominee, a Faulkner-Wisdom Award novel finalist, and a three-time merit-based grant recipient and resident at the Vermont Studio Center. Stories, essays, and poems have appeared in numerous literary journals most recently*, Chapter House, Dash *and *MacGuffin*. Currently, she’s working on a collection of stories, poems, and essays that pushes the boundaries between legal and creative writing. Lisa earned a master’s in writing from Johns Hopkins University and a JD from Suffolk University Law School. Professor Leibow teaches at The George Washington University. She and author Julia Alvarez co-founded The Scheherazade Project, an artivism movement that uses the power of creativity, solidarity, and courage in promoting social justice, nourishing our spirits, and enabling a more beloved community.

Image source: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

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