Love Child
by Leah Mueller

My last name remained the same
until my stepfather adopted me
when I was thirteen.
My parents said
that my new last name
would entitle me
to an enormous sum of money-
I’d receive a portion
of the Woolworth’s fortune,
which had somehow found its way
into the talons of my stepfather’s family.
Due to the magic of posthumous
trickle down economics
I would become a woman of means,
but this would only happen
after a bunch of older relatives died.
My mother told me
not to get my hopes up too much,
because all of them
were still in pretty good health,
and were likely to protest loudly
when they discovered
that my stepfather had adopted me.
Soon my name was the same
as my mother’s and siblings’
and I was no longer the outsider.
My birth father was indifferent
to my defection from his tribe —
he solemnly intoned that
it was all for the best.
I grew to adulthood
with the name of a man
that had been tacked
onto my own, like a bad poster.
One hot June evening
when I was eighteen
my mother was suddenly stricken
by the need to reveal secrets.
She told me that my father
wasn’t real, he was a stand-in
for another man whom she’d had
a wild fling with for a year,
and my sudden arrival
on the planet was presaged
by bisexual threesomes
and daily arguments that led to
stormy make-up sex in a coach house
behind the Mark Twain hotel
on the near north side of Chicago.
The man whom I’d thought was my father
for so many years
was paying the rent on the house,
even though my mother had rejected
all of his romantic advances.
My biological father fled to Los Angeles
and did six weeks in jail
for shoplifting maternity clothing,
but he bought my mother an airline ticket
and begged for her to fly to California.
She had finally decided
she was better off without him,
so she cashed in her airplane ticket,
moved in with the man who paid the rent
and gave me his name.
After my stand-in father
abruptly departed for another apartment,
my mother took up
with a drunken Volkswagen salesman
and married him a few weeks later.
I bore the surname of
my mother’s most recent failure,
for no reason other than
I’d inherit money some day from
an industry devoted to cheap cosmetics
and three for a dollar underwear.
So it wasn’t a complete surprise
several years later
when my stepfather’s relatives
grabbed the lion’s share of the spoils.
My portion of the dime store fortune
came to less than thirty thousand dollars,
and I was stuck with
a name I never wanted.
The funniest thing is that
the storefronts of Woolworth’s
were once bulging at the seams
with cheap items
that everybody wanted,
but are now utterly empty
and devoid of a legitimate name,
and yet I still bear my false one
with a perverse pride
because I have no need of a father.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age eight in Chicago, Illinois (1967).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write as honestly as possible about whatever drifts into my head, which is frequently unresolved detritus from my own past.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Mueller is a writer and astrologer who lives in the rain-drenched woods of western Washington. Her work has appeared recently in Cultured Vultures (as Poem of the Week), Quail Bell; the Rain, Party, and Disaster Society; Talking Soup; Dirty Chai; Writing Raw; and Bop Dead City. She is also the author of one chapbook, Queen of Dorksville, published in 2012 by Crisis Chronicles Press, and, the same year, a winner of Winning Writers’ Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest. Leah’s work recently was featured in two anthologies, with more to follow in 2015. She is also working on a series of erotic short stories and another chapbook. Follow Leah’s blog at