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Sad Creative Nonfiction Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

“Life is full of shit you don’t want to do, Rosie.”

This was my mother’s central credo and self-imposed prison sentence. It was true, of course, but the problem was she made it seem like that was all life could ever be. One dutiful, shitty thing after another with no room for pleasure or creativity. Joy or celebration.

Love.

To her, life was a cycle of rage and regret, of broken mirror bad luck and big, red devils waiting up ahead at every crossroads.

To me, too. For a long, long time.

The first day she said she wanted to die was filled with fog rolling off the ocean in thick puffs of smoky, wet breaths. She’d eaten funny-smelling chicken from a fast food restaurant, complaining about the taste as she ripped the meat off the bone with a rotten tooth the dentist could never seem to fix. He called every Friday to ask when my mother might find her way back to pay the bills. In Wilson woman fashion, she’d tell him to find his way up his own asshole.

I was six. The chills set in about an hour after she ate, flipping her loosely wired mood switch and reminding her I was a useless interloper who’d ruined her relationship with my father.

“Goddamn it! Don’t just stand there! Get some fucking blankets,” she yelled.

Running to the bedroom, I dragged piles of wool and polyester through the hallway, straining my tiny biceps to haul the heavy load as quickly as I could. By the time I made it back to the couch, she was on the floor, writhing.

“I’m gonna die,” she sobbed. “I know I’m gonna die. I can feel it.”

I started to sob with her. The white dress I’d worn to school was soon soaked with worry and panic, the fabric’s embroidered pink roses blooming crimson as my tears watered their threads. I held my mother’s hand and prayed silently to the scary Jesus a boy at the park had told me about.

Glancing at the coffee table and the rotary phone colored bright sky blue, I thought about calling nine-one-one. As I went to pick up the receiver, an invisible scar left on my skull by my mother’s bony knuckles lit up my memory.

“You stupid little shit!” she’d screamed. “Never call that number again unless I tell you to. I don’t care if the apartment is burning down. You wanna see your mother hauled off to jail? You wanna go live with your cokehead father?”

She’d pointed to a solitary plant our cats liked to use as a litter box. Its leaves had always made me think of green stars, their seven points spread out evenly like fingers on a hand happy to see someone. I didn’t get the correlation between the plant and the police, but I got the message.

Looking away from the phone, I squeezed my mother’s damp palm with both hands. She shivered under the heap of bedcovers, her scarlet face slick with a sticky layer of sweat. My mind raced to think of something powerful enough to keep her alive, keep her fighting, keep her from leaving me alone in a world that had stomped its bootheel on her the same way she had her cigarettes.

“Please don’t die, Mommie. I love you so much.”

She narrowed her brilliant blue eyes on my dirty green ones. I pulled my shoulders in and made myself as small as the yellow rubber ball we played with at school.

“No, you don’t,” she hissed. “You never have.” Her face crumpled like a soda can stuffed under a spinning tire. “What have you done for me? Nothing! No one has ever given me anything. No one has ever helped me. No one has ever loved me. No one! Just go. Let me die. I want to die!”

I sealed my lips shut after that, my pockets empty of the one, futile thing I had to offer.

Hours passed and the fog was swept away by a starless, inky tide spilling into the apartment. Too short to reach most of the light switches, I turned on the TV to see as I nursed my sick mother with glasses of bathroom tap water and handfuls of aspirin.

It was after midnight and David Letterman was playing with puppies when she finally fell asleep. By then, my mother’s big red devil had found me in the electric dark, wrapping his crossroad claws around my tiny body, suffocating it until all I could feel was fear. And rage. And regret.

Pressing my palm to my mother’s chest, I did my dutiful, shitty thing, and counted her heartbeats until the sun rose up and chased my big, red devil away.

For years afterward, I lived in his shadow, believing life was a cycle of pain and punishment. Love, a cycle of fuck and fight. I fumbled my way through men and jobs and friendships applying the same philosophy I’d practiced that cold and crippling night. Doing all the dutiful, shitty things that were expected of me, and loving broken monsters who made me small.

“Why do you get to have a husband who loves you so much?” my mother asked the day I got married.

Genuinely puzzled, I stared at the unworthy bride in the mirror — her pretty but plain face painted with sparkling ruby hues, her insolent curls decorated with glowing red roses — and I quietly asked myself the same question.

“I don’t know, Mom,” I said. “I guess I just got lucky.”

My mother huffed in disgust and flicked the ash hanging off her cigarette into my champagne glass. Resisting the urge to throw the polluted bubbly in her face, I pressed my glossy lips together and watched a single tear draw a jagged, wet line down my cheek.

“God, you’re so weak, Rosie,” she said, flashing a familiar switchblade snarl. “You always have been. You’ll be lucky if he still loves you a year from now.”

Thankfully, the last day my mother got sick and said she wanted to die, a big, red devil came and took her away. 

August 30, 2022 20:42

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6 comments

19:07 Sep 08, 2022

That's a great portrait of a person with a very negative world view. There's a lot of emotion in this. I can relate as I know some people that can be just like this. Saw this pop up on critique circle can't say i have any suggestions to improve what you've written though. good work;)

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14:39 Sep 11, 2022

🙏🏼 Thank you so much, Scott.

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Hamza Hoosain
15:57 Sep 13, 2022

My teacher used the story for school work, and it is a very good read. Have a good day!

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18:41 Sep 13, 2022

I am honored by this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and please thank your teacher as well. Have a good day, too. :)

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Mavis Webster
23:10 Sep 04, 2022

This is beautiful in a sort of haunting way. You have a lot of potent comparisons that make the story come alive! I really enjoyed it. Keep writing! :)

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01:00 Sep 05, 2022

Thank you very much, Mavis. I appreciate your feedback and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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