By J. L. Short
This was when my daughter came home to live with me; before the lung cancer, and the chemo and the walker and all that robbed me of my strength and eventually my mind. I ended weeping in the arms of morphine.
But this was a few years before, when I was strong. Just how strong I found out as a single mom; a mom made single after that Swedish son-of-a-bitch walked out on me, only to stop back now and again with his Lucky Strikes and his god damn Airstream trailer. “You want money?” he would say, “You can earn it on your back, you sorry hapless . . .”
He said more, but I’m not going to repeat it, the worthless bastard. So as the single mother of four children I had to be strong. I was stronger than even I knew. I found that out one day when it was my mother’s birthday. I had family over for a party, not that I had special affection for my mom; she with her belt that she would bring when she babysat my children. She would take it out of her bag and show it to the kids, “See this?” she would say. The children looked. “Smell it,” she would demand. Each child in turn would smell it. I knew the routine well, but I let my kids tell me anyway.
After they each gave the belt a sniff she would say, “Any of you give me any trouble and you get this on your backside, do you understand me?” You might say my mother was cold, colder than a witch’s tit, colder than January in Unpleasantville, which is when all this happened with my daughter and her baby.
It was on the day of my mother’s birthday, and everyone was invited but my daughter Doreen was nowhere to be seen. I was looking forward to her visit, she had a two-month-old baby, Michael, my first grandchild. I was looking forward to seeing Doreen and the baby but they were not there. So, I called her up. I could tell something was wrong just by hearing her voice on the line.
“Can’t come Mom, I’m sick.”
“Oh no, you’re sick? You want me to come over and help with the baby?”
“No Mom, I don’t want you to see me.”
“Why not? I’ll come right over now. Phyllis can take care of grandma’s party.”
“No Mom don’t come, I’m fine.”
“Well then come on over if you’re fine.”
“No mom, I don’t want anyone to see me, I don’t want grandma to see me.”
She sighed, “I’ve got a black-eye.”
Black eye she said! Well that ended the conversation. I wasn’t going to stay on the line and listen to some bullshit about how she hit herself with the mop or walked into the door.
I said, “You wait right there, I’m coming over, now.”
Just before I slammed the phone down, I heard, “Mom, wait.”
I wasn’t waiting. He hit her, again, that pasty faced clown who worked at one of the appliance stores at the Unpleasantville shopping center. I don’t know what Doreen saw in that loser, but I was through asking questions. I grabbed my keys, ran out the door in my stocking feet without a coat despite the snow and the temperature being well below zero. I jumped into my Chevy Nova and I started driving across town to Doreen’s house. I put the pedal to the floor with my stocking foot and I must have been going 100 miles an hour, running through all the red lights and stop signs. Roaring past the park with the monolith, I had no idea what I was going to do, except I needed to get Doreen and the baby out of that place and away from that man. When I got to Doreen’s house I slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop. I ran to the front door and banged on it with my fist. Wouldn’t you know it, that pasty faced bastard with his wispy moustache opened the door. I grabbed him by the collar, pulled him to the side, slammed him against the wall and hit him in the face. Then I hit him in the face again, and again. and again, until he was whimpering and bleeding.
“Please don’t hit me,” he said. He was being polite, so I stopped. I pointed my finger at him and told him to “stay right here.”
I ran in the house and found Doreen and baby Michael. Picking up the baby and taking Doreen by the arm, I headed them out the door and back to my car. The car door was still open, and the engine was running. I put them both in the back and ignored Doreen’s plea for a baby seat. I got behind the wheel and drove them both back to my house.
Doreen and the baby, they never went back.
J. L. Short lives with his family near Philadelphia and as near as he can tell there are no ghosts living in the house. On the other hand, he is continually harassed by two hounds and two cats. He enjoys reading and writing about history and the supernatural, not necessarily in that order.