Tag Archives: mother

my mother takes on the world

My mom and I are walking around her housing complex in Boca Raton
when she starts talking about how she doesn’t like Facebook
how people rant over their problems and disagreements out in public for all to see 
“Who cares?”
when she gets angry enough to explode
She puts all of her rage in a typed profanity-laced note she’ll later delete
Directed at people that piss her off

Hearing this out of her mouth
Makes me think of a forgotten piece of china lifted from its spot in a cupboard
revealing something you’d been looking for for a while.

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Aisle 7

In aisle 7 of the pet store, Annabelle’s dog, Roger, a golden retriever, began to bark at a bullmastiff sniffing the cheapest brands of dog food on the opposite end of the aisle.

“Quiet,” she told the dog. “No.”

Roger normally lived with her ex, Alan – Annabelle had given him their dog as a kind of consolation prize after they split up for good, and they had both agreed that Thea should live during the week with Annabelle, and on weekends with Alan.

Alan had had to take an emergency business trip, and he said Annabelle was his only option on such short notice. “I can’t stand to board him,” he’d told her over the phone.

Roger stopped barking.

“Good dog,” offered Thea, in a light blue dress, her blonde hair tied in a ponytail. She scratched his neck, and put her head close to his face. She squealed when Roger gave her a sloppy kiss. The mastiff barked at them, and Roger growled back.

“Ranger, no more, you hear me?” the mastiff’s owner ordered, yanking at the leash and causing it to rattle.

“You too,” said Annabelle, locating the enormous Iams bag and grabbing a fistful of it with one hand. As she did so, she felt the leash move through her other hand as Roger lunged in the direction of the bullmastiff, and then stopped for a moment, as if, surprised at his new freedom. The mastiff’s owner didn’t even see Roger coming, and before anyone could react, the two dogs were tearing off bits of flesh and fur in the dog food section.

In the scuffle, the mastiff tore the ear off of Roger. At the sight of this, Annabelle, grayish blonde hair, sunglasses on her forehead, began to shake and she didn’t stop. Thea was bawling now, with her hands interlaced around Annabelle’s left leg. Annabelle stood like that — Thea hanging off her, the bag of food against her chest  — until a squat, gray-haired woman in a dark blue sweatshirt grabbed up the little girl, darting out of the aisle, and out of view.

With a weary eye on both dogs, the owner of the mastiff grabbed up his dog’s leash again, and pulled him out of the aisle — effectively putting an end to the carnage. Roger was left to collapse onto the floor, finally registering the pain.

A curly-haired man in a store-issued blue apron scampered into the aisle and when he saw Annabelle’s state, he took the Iams from her. Annabelle began to sink down as soon as he did, as if she had suddenly lost her life preserver in the ocean. The man put his arms around her to prop her up, and for a moment she thought she was in Alan’s arms moments after he had told her that he thought they should stop living in the same house. Then her eyes shut and her brain switched off.

When she came to, Annabelle was lying on a dark brown dog bed. Her feet hung off, and her pocket book was beside her. Almost immediately, her thoughts returned to her daughter. Sitting up now, she noted a pot-bellied man in a Nets hat applying a cloth bandage to her deformed dog, but she did not see Thea anywhere.

“She’s right outside,” said the man caring for her dog.

Annabelle pushed herself up by her palms, and tore out of the aisle. When she got to the registers, she slid a few feet on the tiled floor. Stopping to regain her footing, she now could see immediately outside of the entryway of the store her daughter in the arms of a woman she had never seen before — the automatic doors opening and closing before them.

She jogged toward them, and the woman handed over Thea. Annabelle did not feel the frigid January air on her cheeks.

“Thank you. Thank you,” she cried, placing her hand inside the lady’s hand while clutching a little too tightly to her daughter.

“Mommy, is Roger okay? Is he dead?” asked Thea.

Annabelle kissed Thea forcefully on her ear, making a squeaking sound.

“Are you okay, honey?”

“I’m fine. Roger is hurt, though.”

“I know, honey. I know.”

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A Pair of Black Garbage Bags

At 2 am

Mom woke us up in the middle of the night

gave my brother and I a pair of black garbage bags

“Put as much winter clothing as you can fit inside these bags, when you run out of warm clothes, you can begin with the toys,

then meet me downstairs.”

this was not the first time we were given this instruction

so Edgar and I basically knew how to proceed

but it was never easy

Edgar was only 6 and he had great trouble accepting

that he would have to give up an action figure

in place of a sweater

a nebulizer in place of a lite-brite

when we were done,

we headed downstairs

where our mom held out her arms to both of us and we all huddled together

Dad had not beaten her up in a number of years but Mom still made us move every time

she spotted his car in the towns we lived

he didn’t approach us anymore

it was as if he just wanted to be in the vicinity

I had seen him a handful of times from the backseat of Mom’s car

in Temecula, he was helping some people move a sofa into their apartment

in Tahoe, he was putting on someone’s snow chains on the side of the road

in Spokane, he was up on a ladder working on a faulty street light

when I was little

he seemed like a pretty nice guy to do these things

but mom said

he wasn’t doing it out of kindness

it was how he “stayed afloat”

the night she told me this

I dreamt my dad was on a busted-up oil freighter on the high seas

running around patching up all of the holes

just as he plugged one another would open

“Boys we are going north to Canada —

what do you know about Canada?” asked mom.

“The capital is Ottawa.” I said.

“It’s cold,” added Edgar.

“Very good.”

“Will there be snow, Mama?” queried Edgar.

“More snow than you can imagine in that little mind of yours.”

There was a big smile on Edgar’s face now

and my mother made her face look like his once she spotted it

“Mom why can’t we go back to Los Angeles where it’s warm?,” I ventured to ask.

“You know we can’t ever go back there, hijo.”

I did, but it didn’t stop me from asking the question every time.

“Okay mis hijos, my loves. Time to go.”

And then the three of us went out into the cold

or what we considered cold

because a lot of what I thought I knew back then

we left behind in that house.

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This is a Terrible Thing (flash fiction)

The boy holds his mother’s hand as the two walk the leaf-swept block to the pale gray two-story at the end. Then and only then will she let go of her son’s hand. Today, however, the two come across a modest collection of their neighbors standing over a patch of sidewalk between his house and his friend Dana’s plum-colored house. The mother and her boy join the group and soon they see what they are looming over: a swastika in dark purple chalk sandwiched between two animal drawings he and Dana sketched 5 days before.
“This is a terrible thing,” says Mr. Zwiebel, a diminutive man with curly dark brown hair who resides on the other side of he and his parents in the light blue and white house he often hits with his soccer ball.
“This neighborhood has always been very safe.”
Mrs. Catrall, in her snug gray suit and heels, answers: “It’s still safe, it’s probably some loony. Has someone called the police?”
“Yes, but these kinds of cases don’t get solved, Donna,” says Mr. Zwiebel, looking unimpressed with the lady who resides across the street and who’s son is in the same 11th grade AP English class as his daughter.
Mr. Robertson, a broad-shouldered, pot-bellied father of two very young twins across the street, crouches down very low to inspect the image. He puts his finger to the ink, and traces over the length of half of the swastika.
The boy whispers into his mother’s ear.
“What is that?”
She doesn’t answer him. She has been bowdlerizing the world for so long on his behalf, but sometimes “shit happens,” as the boy’s dad likes to say (when the boy isn’t around).
“What does it mean?,” he presses.
She puts a finger to her lips.
Before he can ask something else, he sees his friend Dana walking up to the group with her own mother. Upon seeing the mysterious drawing beside her blue lion, she presses her body against her mother and begins to cry. She’s wearing what she wore to school earlier and when she lets go of her mother, the boy can see where she accidentally squirted ketchup on her green shirt.
“Dana!” the boy calls out, but somehow the words don’t belong, sound wrong.
The mother returns her finger to her lips and shakes her head at her son. Dana looks in the boy’s direction but says nothing.
The boy looks more closely at the image. Decides that it looks like two overlapping 5’s, and begins checking his memory for the significance of the number 55. He remembers his dad was born in that year, but that’s all that comes to mind.
Next the boy imagines it as a weapon, tossed and spinning by some big-muscled brute from a TV show he’d watched once, destroying the homes of a make believe village.
Whatever it is, he doesn’t understand why all of these people are looking at it in this way. If he were them, he’d  just wash it off and draw something over it. A sun or a brave warrior on horseback.
A few minutes later, the mother takes her son into the house, not letting go even as they walk through the hallway and into the kitchen. He has to pull his hand out of hers to break free.
“Mom what is happening? Why is Dana so sad?”
“Don’t you worry. The adults are dealing with it,” his mom answers, running a cold hand across his left cheek.
The mother puts on a cartoon in the kitchen and turns the volume to max.
The screen images lure the boy into his chair at the kitchen table. His mother puts a snack in front of him and the boy is transfixed as the Power Rangers courageously take on a threesome of disgusting aliens bent on taking over the planet. His small hands punch the air in a series of jabs. He laughs when one of the aliens runs into a clothesline the blue power ranger sets up for him.
The mother sits down and studies her young son. When he notices his mother observing him, he puffs up his cheeks with air and then double smacks them, making a loud pop.
She smiles at him. Once the program is over, and the Power Rangers have emerged victorious, she will tell him about the evil outside.
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The boy doesn’t know his ABCs (flash fiction)

“The boy can operate an iPhone, but he doesn’t know his ABCs!” exclaimed the boy’s uncle, who was sprawled out on the sofa watching a Mexican club soccer game and now on his third beer.

“Sobrino! Sobrino! Come over here, tell me the ABCs.”

The boy obliged, making his way over from the kitchen, where he was picking at a dish of Canela Bunuelos that hadn’t been set out for the relatives yet.

“Okay tio, ready? Here I go.  A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, O, L, M, N, O, T — …”

Before the youngster could finish, the living room erupted in raucous laughter.

His abuelo, his tias, his tio, even his mother and father. The boy smiled. He didn’t mind. His parents never laughed like this when they were just the three of them. The truth was his dad was rarely around these days — ever since he picked up a third job as a cook at a family-owned burrito shop 40 minutes from their apartment.

“Hijo, aren’t they teaching you anything at that school?” announced his father from where he sat next to his brother on the couch.

He didn’t know what to say to this; he recognized it as one of those questions adults asked but didn’t actually want answered.

“It’s okay, my son, I love you anyway,” said the man, before entering into a  conversation with his father and brother about the dire state of the Mexican national soccer team.

The boy now saw his mother motioning for him to come over to where she was at the far end of the room.

“Ven aqui, hijo,” she instructed, her expression evolved from joyful to concerned now.

The boy did as he was told. When he reached her, the woman’s expression softened, and she put an arm around his shoulder, bringing him into the kitchen that way.

“Are you listening to your teacher at school?” she asked, taking his head in her hands and holding him close so that he could smell the Dos Equis on her breath.

“Yes, mama.”

“Then how come you don’t know your ABCs?”

“I do, but I lie that I don’t because it makes you all so happy,” answered the boy.

At this, his mother began to cry softly.

“Mama, why are you crying?” the boy asked.

“You’re too sweet for this world, mi amor.”

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