Excerpt, 8/22

The girl stands at the bedroom door her feet rubbing the hallway carpet floor. She chews on a finger thinks to herself what goes on beyond this door aint none of my business. Soon enough though it will be. For now she listens, the bubble around her glistening from the sun through the morning window. Brushes like an insect on her skin. Her hair is a force falling across her yawning face, and through it her eyes locked unflinching at what goes on beyond the door. A bubble keeps her silence inside it, and the sun through the window keeps the silence warm. When she hears a sound beyond the door, her spirit jumps out of her skin and runs back into her bedroom and closes the door. Pulling the covers over her frightened little fear. The bubble shrinks and shrinks until it floats around her heart. Another sound and she loses it, falls into the bathroom pretending to wash the sleep off her face as the bedroom door opens at the end of the hallway.

A darkness greets her good morning with a reptile smile, then moves on down the steps and out the front door with a crash. A car engine revs and pulls away into the distance. She wipes her hands clean of it and follows his scent down the stairs through the kitchen. All the way to the door, her handle on it soft and fleeting. Little wrists pale as they press against the door, she moves to open it but steps back and twirls onto the rug, humming a song. The bubble grows and grows, her music vibrating along the membrane like rocks thrown at a lake. She spins through the kitchen and opens the fridge removing a jug of milk and fixes herself some cereal. She eats it at the kitchen table with a napkin folded at her lap. The silence lays golden in a single ray of sunlight.
When she hears the door upstairs open again she pauses, her mouth full of rainbow milk, holds her breath and waits to hear her come down the steps. Mother arrives to the kitchen to see her son eating breakfast, turns the little television on and starts at the dirty dishes. She talks to him but he wont look at her, he just chews and shakes his head to the news station blaring Good Morning America. She smiles at her son, asks him how he slept, doesn’t mention the man who left. Figures he can bring it up if he wants. Hearing nothing she quickly begins on her nights sleep, up all night, congested, and she sniffles and sucks at the phlegm spidered in her chest.

She doesn’t ask him if he wanted eggs, she just starts it up, putting butter in the pan and heating it up on the stove, the kitchen more cluttered with every heavy second.  He feels a railroad spike in his chest as the phone rings just above his head. Answer it, she says. He lifts the phone and its Dad calling from the car phone asking if he’s ready yet. Who is it? It’s dad. Oh. Well, you tell him I’m making breakfast for his children.

Through the receiver dad’s voice. What’d she say? Mom’s making us breakfast. Well, I’m almost there. Tell her to make it to go so I can pick you guys up.
Across the kitchen his brother enters and yawns as he flops down across from him. Who is that, dad?
Yeah its dad.
Mom’s busy listening and burning the eggs in the butter. What’s he saying?
He’s almost here.
Well you tell him he ain’t getting his kids until they’ve sat and had breakfast with their mother.
He repeats that to dad, who’s screaming something off in the distance.
Tell her she doesn’t have to cook for you. I’m taking you boys out for breakfast.
He says he wants to take us out for breakfast.
She swells up like a beast, burning her hand on the stove and rushing to douse it in cold water from the sink.
Mother fucker. Tell that bastard he can have ya for the rest of the fuckin day but right now I got you boys and I’m makin em their breakfast. Hows that grab ya?
What did she say D? Derek.
He sits there with the phone at his ear twirling the cord around his finger and letting it unravel.
Tell him I’m not letting you pick em up. Tell him that. Right now. Mother fucker. Huh. Hows that. Hows that grab ya?
Tell her I heard every fuckin word… he screams off in the distance MOVE OVER ASSHOLE. CHRIST ALMIGHTY. Tell her I heard every fucking word and I’m coming to get you. You hear me D? Get your shoes on. Hang up and get your shoes on. Right now. I’m getting you out of that house.
She dumps the eggs from the pan brown and dry onto the plates with toast and butter and salt at the table. She unrolls a potato from its tin foil with an oven mitt, opens a salsa jar, and dumps salsa over the potato. She’s talking everywhere, to herself, to him, to Jay, to the ceiling, to the food.
Hang up the phone D. Hang it up now. Christ. Jesus christ. And she grabs her head with her hands and bangs her elbows on the glass table top.
Mom.
HANG IT UP.
He hangs up the phone.
That bastard. That fucking bastard. I don’t get to see you at all and this is all I want is for you boys to have some goddamn food with your mother, alright? Bastard. Here’s the salt. I didn’t salt the eggs or else I’d blow up. She smiles all beady, her veneers through wide open lips. I burned the toast. Here. I’ll make some more.
No. It’s fine ma. Just sit down.
He drives me fuckin nuts. I’m like a nutcase right now.
Nobody speaks anymore but the television is going and the sun is spread out on the kitchen table. There’s a car honking outside the condo and they know its him but nobody gets up or says anything.
The television. Then another honk, long and hard crashing through the kitchen.
Christ. And she stomps to the door shaking the little pictures on the wall and unlocks it with a terrifying rage. The phone starts ringing above his head.
She goes outside wearing a thin printed robe and slippers and starts at him wildly. They erupt under the birdsong and the clear sky of a Saturday morning with a storm of violence. He runs outside with his brother yelling stop, stop. The tears already streaming down his face, his heart pounding in his chest. Stop fighting. But they don’t stop and it doesn’t take long before he sees the shifting of the blinds across the way, the peering eyes feeding on the human ugliness happening in the street. They tumble and push and shake furiously, their jaws snapping, bodies swelling. They go blind and deaf and dumb, two beasts in a pit contesting over their young. Doors opening from adjacent condos and people spilling into the street. It isn’t only but half a minute with their claws outstretched but it sunk them through a darkness witnessed by all the small and silent people living, living out their saturday mornings in the usual way before this sudden violence. Before this storm.
They run inside to grab their bags and back out onto the sidewalk where the remains of the battle still shook the earth. The people watching them as they get into dad’s car and drive away, Mom pounding on the drivers side glass, her mouth foaming, her body jerking about before stomping defiantly back, past the driveway, past the eyes and faces floating in windows, past the morning dew, the sky rumbling and clear. A single slipper lay upside down in the grass like an insect dead from poison, a body part mutilated and stinking in the day.
I don’t want you living there anymore, he says to his sons. Your mother’s fucked. She’s completely fucked. You know how fucked she is. Look at me. He adjusts the mirror. Look what she did to me. What a bitch. What an absolute bitch. Here. I’ll turn on some music. You’re with me now, you’re with your father. I’m gonna sue her ass for this.
They drive off in the silence of the radio playing his favorite station, a station that played all the rock songs he liked. He fingered the back of the seat and said nothing nor looked up at either of them. Up ahead was the weekend, the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday before they’d get dropped back off with mom. The hills rolled by as they drove up and up the state roadway. The bubble was the exact size and shape of his heart. She watched the trees and the light flash and move across the seat. She sung a song to herself.

One thought on “Excerpt, 8/22

  1. Children find not only a way to cope and survive an abused and neglected childhood. And hopefully somehow that survival builds an indestructible inner strength.

    Liked by 1 person

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