Delusional

Prompt: Purple

purple

Andrew stayed in his bedroom with the door closed until the last minute.

His mother had called for him at least half an hour ago, maybe to double-check his hair, nails, and suit, and he ignored her. He would emerge, if he did at all, when there was no time left to think.

“I hope you’ll come to love him,” his mother had said. She watched too many television dramas. Her view of the world was simplistic and, frankly, annoying. That’s why she only spoke to her father, Bernard, once, one time, on the phone before dropping Andrew off on his doorstep and leaving him with a complete stranger. They mumbled at one another, and then the old guy showed him his cats, which was weird, then they drove in his cab to the zoo, as if Andrew was a kid, followed by a major freak-out on his grandfather Bernard’s part and a visit to White Spot which was the only decent part of the day. Ok, his grandfather turned out to be not awful and was closer to him now than almost anyone, but his mother had no way of knowing that would happen. People did idiotic things like that on TV, and the plot twisted and turned and everyone had a laugh and it all ended up neatly tied with a bow.

Even Andrew knew that’s not how the world worked. He would not come to love Randy. He didn’t hate him or anything, but Randy was not the sort of person Andrew could love. His mother was delusional. So was Randy, if he thought he could be an effing “father figure”. He’d tried that on, tried to tell Andrew what to do. No way.

Andrew thought about moving out, but he wasn’t finished high school. He could maybe move in with his grandfather, but had a feeling Bernard would tell him to tough it out for his mother’s sake. Sophie said something similar. “Be happy for your mom’s sake,” she’d said. Andrew tried, he really did.

He heard a knock on the bedroom door, softly at first, then more strident.

“Andrew?” His mother. “Bernard will be here in five minutes; are you ready or what?”

There was a full length mirror on the inside of the bedroom door. Andrew took all the old jeans and t-shirts off the hooks and threw them on the bed. This was the moment of truth.

There he stood, in a dark blue, single-breasted suit, with a ever-so-subtly ruffled purple shirt and navy bow tie. The shirt was a fine purple, soft yet striking, the tie was clip-on, and Andrew looked like a perfect fool. He had to wear this outfit, as one of Randy’s groomsmen. Honest to god, his mother, sometimes.

He was hard-pressed to decide which was worse, Randy joining the family, or his having to appear in public in a clown outfit chosen by a delusional mother who watched too much television and thought purple was ok.

Bernard’s old taxi backfired a lot. Andrew heard it and went to the window. It was time to go downstairs.

Makizmo

Prompt: Scent

broken-pottery

The last thing Deborah expected was the scent of Vincent. That is, the scent of his cologne, inhabiting her mother’s house like a coat of paint, assaulting her as soon as she walked through the front door.

She put the bottle of wine on the kitchen counter, where there was a note: Put cass in oven 325 back 6. Why did her mother have to write as if every character was as painful as plucking hair from the roots? It’s not as if she was busy, or even working anymore.

There was a clear pyrex dish on the counter, covered in foil. Inside looked like some kind of macaroni casserole. Leave the foil on or off? The note didn’t say. Deborah turned the oven to 325 degrees and put the casserole dish in cold. She glanced at the wall clock. Half an hour before her mother said she’d be back.

Deborah went to the cupboard, pulled out one of her mother’s china plates, and smashed it into the sink. She sat at the table and cried, drying her tears with paper towels. She carefully gathered up the delicate and unsalvageable shards of the plate and put them in the garbage can in the corner. She went into the bathroom and washed her face. She used the face cloth to scrub under her arms too, since the scent of Vincent caused her to sweat into her blouse.

Vincent smelled like lime leaves, musk, and burnt sugar. That was the fragrance, Makizmo, that he chose to wear, when he was alive. Deborah knew of no one else who wore it. Smelling it now made her think of Vincent’s arms— he was so proud of his well-toned arms, and was fond of tank tops even though Deborah thought they made him look rough and common. She thought of the way he bit her ear when they made love. She thought about his laugh, the way he threw his head back and there was just that moment of pause before the guffaw burst out. She thought about how he loved and missed his childhood dog, Chummy, and how that creature was the only sentimental topic in his repertoire. She thought about his body, his face shot off, the closed coffin at his funeral.

Vincent was gone. Deborah was on her own. She was recovering. She was back at work. She was able to pay the monthly mortgage on her little house, the one she had shared with Vincent, thanks to financial help from Uncle Al and her mother. She was moving on with her life, like every single person she ever talked to kept telling her to do.

And then her mother goes and lets Vincent back in the house.

Deborah went to her mother’s bedroom. The bed was hastily made. The scent was stronger here. She picked up a pillow and pressed it to her face. It was awash with the scent of lime leaves, musk, and burnt sugar.

She heard the front door open, and her mother call her name. Her mother, the whore who let Vincent into the house, who let Vincent sleep in her bed that day even though Deborah was to be her guest that evening.

She went to the bedroom window and drew back the curtains, throwing open the window to a gust of frigid air that raised goosebumps on her arms and neck. In a moment, she felt warm arms reach around her and pull the window closed again, then clasp her tightly, lovingly, silently.

It smelled like Vincent.

Dear Ms Roades

Prompt: Overworked

side-eye-classical-art

Dear Ms Roades,

Please excuse Todd’s absence from school yesterday, as he was suffering from diagnosable exhaustion. It had nothing to do with the police, his conflicts at home, or anything other than his devotion to completing his school assignments with promptness and competence. I would appreciate your sensitivity in this matter and hope you will leave us to attend to our own issues without your interference.

Sincerely,
Mrs. A. Caper

Safety

Prompt: Panic

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Tabby dialled 911. Which is to say, she punched in the buttons with trembling fingers: 9-1-1.

She held tightly to Rosa’s hand, shaking her to try and silence her wailing. The bathroom door was closed and locked, and Tabby pressed Rosa and herself tightly against the tiled wall under the window.

“Nicky,” she called through the door. “Have you put it down? Put it down for mommy. Have you put it down?”

“Remain calm,” said a voice in her ear. A person at the call center. Remain calm? Fuck you.

“Mama!” Nicky called back, cheerfully. This was a new game.

Tabby said to the voice: “What do I do?”
She said to Nicky: “Put it on the floor!”
She said to Rosa: “Stay here, right here. Do not move! Do you understand?” Rosa put her thumb in her mouth. She had broken that habit weeks ago.

Then Tabby unlocked the door, and peered around into the bedroom. It was painted a pale yellow, with taupe and navy accents. She’d seen it in a magazine, she forgot which one. It looked better in the magazine, without a pile of laundry on the bed, curtains that had been clawed by the cat, and a child in a dirty diaper on the carpet, waving a loaded gun around.

Nicky held the gun by the handle. It was heavy for him, so he used two hands. He’d seen guns on the TV. Tabby had just been gone a second, two seconds! to turn off the oven when the timer sounded, and when she returned Nicky had the weapon in his sticky little hands. It was too heavy for him to point at his sister’s head, so the muzzle rested against her tummy.

She barely remembered scooping up Rosa and trying to take the gun from Nicky. He pulled away and fell on his back, now aiming at the ceiling. He was at that terrible stage when everything was a “No!” Tabby’s sister had been commiserating with her just the day before, laughing at the stubbornness of the twins. “It’ll pass,” said Nancy with a laugh. “The tyrant stage eventually does. Be patient!”

Be patient? Fuck off.

She rushed into the ensuite and deposited Rosa in the bathtub, then Rosa started screaming and Tabby picked her up and then set her down, and, in a panic, took her cellphone out of her apron pocket and debated whether to call Albert or 911. Al was busy with his nephew’s family, two hundred miles away. He could fix some things, but not this. It was all his fault anyway. Fuck him. Instinctively she called emergency but realized it was a futile move, the disembodied voice an irritant, and she ended the call, tossing the phone into the wastebasket.

Tabby stepped back into the bedroom closed the bathroom door behind her. Rosa had fallen silent. It wouldn’t surprise Tabby if she dropped off to sleep, since it was Rosa’s habit to explode with energy, then, expended, fall asleep where she sat.

“Bang,” said Nicky. His two chubby fingers squeezed the trigger as Tabby reached him. “Bang.”

There was no sound but the suddenly loud ticking of the bedside clock. Nicky looked up into his mother’s eyes, and his face distorted, his eyes and mouth and nose all scrunched together, and he let out a wail loud enough to wake his sleeping sister.

Nicky didn’t resist when Tabby took the gun from him. The grip was sticky. She carefully put it on top of the wardrobe. She picked up the boy and held him until his cries subsided into hiccups, then fetched Rosa from the bathtub.

“I’m glad you didn’t call the police,” Albert said when she called him, after she had calmed down enough and put the twins down for a nap. “Don’t need them nosing around. Anyway, the safety was on.”

Fuck you.

 


Normal

Prompt: Joke

woman with face tattoo

“It was just a joke,” Harrison told his father.

“It was no joke, it was a stupid act of a stupid boy,” said his father.

“Donald…” said his mother.

“You spoil him.”

“You abuse him.”

“Abuse him? I’ll show you abuse.” Harrison’s father struck his mother in the face with the palm of his hand. She only took a step back, but her face turned crimson.

Harrison wasn’t expecting the kick in the stomach. His father was more agile than he thought. He gasped for breath and fell on his knees. It didn’t hurt yet; it was such a surprise, but it would hurt later when Harrison was in his bed trying to sleep.

Harrison’s mother screamed in horror. Before she could reach her son, Harrison’s father picked up the glass of whiskey and threw it on the tile floor, where it shattered into a million pieces.

“Clean it up,” he said to his wife, and left the kitchen. They could hear his footsteps on the stairs, and then the loud bass of the television.

“He didn’t mean it,” Harrison’s mother said, as she knelt and pulled him into her arms.

“He didn’t?” said Harrison. It was like his mother was speaking in a foreign language. The whole house now looked alien to him. Was it his house? Did he belong here?

All his friends played jokes. He thought it was normal. Things were confusing, especially today, now, with his mother holding him so tightly, another angry welt on her left cheek.

“He was just not in the mood,” his mother said. Not in the mood? thought Harrison. Then I will try the salt joke again. Jokes are normal. He should learn to be normal. The world needed to be normal.

He asked his mother if he could go outside and kick the soccer ball around.

Harrison kicked the ball, hard, again and again, against the brick fence in the back, until his mother called him for supper. Only once did it go over the fence. Their neighbour’s daughter, who was visiting from France, tossed the ball back with a smile and a wave.