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Christian Coming of Age Drama

TW: Verbal abuse

[ Friday - October 28, 19xx | 6:38pm ]

 

“Isn’t he so handsome, Marie?! And he’s only 2 weeks old! Mark Anthony Wilson!” Carol beamed. “You know, like the Emperor, Mark Anthony,” she continued, eyes locked lovingly on her infant son, but now darting-up smugly, to meet the ever-narrowing gaze of her teen friend.

 

Desperately trying to smother an increasingly growing jealousy of the girl, Marie would inject. “I know girl, you said it like a million times already! Besides, I don’t think he was a King anyway. The real Mark Anthony, I mean. He was like a Bishop or a Saint, or something...”

 

“Oh My God girl, you are so cute, and stupid! Anyway, well… I hate to say it, but… Doreatha’s baby was kinda ugly when he was born, you know? I mean, he had all those wrinkles in his forehead, and he looked like a little old-man-troll-bug-doll or something. Eww! Not to mention his poor father!” Now they both chimed in unison. “Ewwwww!”.

 

At this the two erupted into uncontrollable laughter, but even when the embarrassingly young mother thought she heard her new infant hiccup, or cough (or something) she instinctively brought him upright and to her shoulder, gently patting him on the back while rocking reassuringly back and forth. She had instinctively prepared for this as an even younger girl, some would say, while playing mother to plastic-replica babies and again much more frequently now, especially in her dreams. But she was neither aware of that then, nor now. She was merely enjoying a very human moment of Maternal-Majesty. The likes of which her youthful experience would present itself dully and muted, for lack of understanding.

 

Besides, she was already feeling a little giddy and light-headed from it all. Not to mention dehydrated from the ordeal of giving birth. Late night feedings and early morning diaper changes would take their toll. This was yet another shock to her frail condition and would take her young body some additional physical adjustment. "Jesus!" the girl would exclaim, as the infant let out a giant burp.

 

“Girl, you better stop taking the Lord’s name in Vain like that! Miss Ann’s gonna Kill You!” Marie quickly shot back in hushed-tone and stern-brow, as she bolted upright from her lounging position on the floor, upsetting the record albums she’d been holding on her lap, as she reached across them clumsily for her best friend’s mouth.

 

“Girl, she ain’t worried about me - she gettin’ ready for Vespers.”

 

“On a Friday? I never understood your religion anyway. Why should anyone have to go to Church on a Friday? I just don’t get it. Ya’ll ain’t Jewish, right?” Marie asked with genuine concern as she reached over to turn up the record player. And as The Supremes effortlessly crooned ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, she smiled warmly at the swaddled infant in Carol’s lap.

 

“Girl, she ain’t going to Church today, she’s in there getting ready for Vespers tonight. I think it’s her turn to cook. Vespers is just evening prayers, but they make a big-ol’ to-do out of it on Friday’s; Cooking and Baking and tellin’ old stories and stuff. I’m glad I ain’t gotta go no more though, not since the baby…”

 

 

Barreling-down the hard-wooden creaky staircase of the 3-story row-house, came Carolyn’s younger brother Thump-Thump-Thump, THUMP!

 

“JAMES! Can you please stop runnin’ down those STAIRS?! You’re scaring the BABY!” At this the small infant in her lap shook violently, as if from the falling reflex, and began to wail.

 

“How many times have we told your dumb-butt…” the girl shrilly continued. The infant’s outburst had caused her nipples to dilate and leak into her already dampened tee-shirt. This would calm him, as he rooted-about instinctively with closed eyes, open nostrils and puckered mouth.

 

“WHAT IS ALL THIS SCREAMING IN HERE FOR?! Carolyn-Ann! Watch your mouth around that Child!”

 

Her mother swept deftly through the swinging kitchen door and into the front-room, where she hovered over the girls like a dark Saint. Wringing her hands frantically on her starched-white apron, tied with a perfect bow in the back and at just the right length, rising four inches above her stockinged ankles and two above her dress. Hair pulled back in a tight bun and covered snugly (but not too tightly) with a bright crimson silken scarf. This matched the crimson ribbon tied with a bow around her high-collared bleached and starched white cotton shirt with black-tipped collar. All dressed-up and ready for Seventh-Day-Adventist Services.

 

“And why are you out here using the Lord’s name in VAIN?!” she glared, now darting her gaze between the two girls, stabbing at their morality with the deep-brown Holy-daggers that were her eyes.

 

“You didn't think I heard you?! The Lord heard you and that should have been good enough! Now turn down that noise, and hand me that baby."

 

“Mama I’m hungry! Can't I get a little something now and then when you get back from Vespers I can just eat whatever left-overs Ya’ll don't...” her little brother began to croon from the stairwell landing, where he was now crawling across on his stomach toward the group, clad in military regalia and sporting dual-mock .45 Caliber Army-issued hardware.

 

“Boy, if you don’t shut your mouth when grown-people are talking! And GET-UP OFF YOUR KNEES IN THOSE SCHOOL-CLOTHES!”

 

“I’m ain’t… I mean, I’m ‘not’ on my knees, and Carol-Ann ain’t Grown! Just ‘cause she got a new baby now don’t make her grown, she still only 15! And besides, she thinks she can boss me around more too! It’s not fair, Ma!” Her brother tried to interrupt with a glancing-accusatory look at his now grimacing older sibling.

 

“No, but I AM… Grown, that is! So, shut your mouth and GO upstairs!” her mother snapped. “I’ll bring you up something before we leave.”

 

“WE? You mean I gotta go? Why?! You said I could stay home tonight and…” Her 9-year-old brother was now instantly in tears, shoulders hunched in shame and denial, as if he had killed the neighbor’s pet.

 

“Because she SAID So!” Carol sneered at the boy, teasingly sticking her tongue out at him.

 

“Shut-up, Girl!” her mother snapped, then snatching her head toward her small son again.

 

“Because, I SAID SO! Now go upstairs and change your clothes. And wash your hands and face, too! I swear with all your constant bickering you make me forget what I wanted to do and do what I wanted to forget! If God didn’t love you, then you wouldn't have anywhere to go at all!! Now GO upstairs! I’ll bring you up a glass of milk in a minute.”

 

Her dark-brown, flawless skin began to take-on a sheen of perspiration, causing her to retrieve a paper fan (seemingly from thin-air) and begin to wave it directly at her forehead. The ones with the flat wooden tongue-depressor handles that were given-out at crowded and sticky Summer Church Services. As she fanned herself with a blur, ‘Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church’ would flutter through the air like a crude animation.

 

Of all the words her mother screamed at the boy it was one set that did the trick. But it wasn't just the words themselves, it was the look given with steely squinted-eye and determined jaw, and the feelings projected in the ‘Because I SAID SO!’ that followed it. Every kid knows that, feeling. It will only and always end in your physical compliance. Period. Without discussion, debate, retaliation or need for retort. Moreover, any further lingering on the matter would be a gloriously beautiful waste of time.

 

Still, it was hard not to smile as the boy slumped and slithered adorably back up the stairs like a wounded pup. This of course was her plan all along. Not the wounded dog theatrics, but the Vespers and Church services in general. It was becoming increasingly harder to attract the attention of the younger members of the Congregation. True, they would study 'what' and 'when' they were supposed to (as per the 'Elder in-Charge' of Lessons), but they would squirm and fidget so, as to require constant supervision, thus competing for the attention that the adults so desperately 'staged' for themselves. Strong social and emotional bonds were forged at these gatherings. Godly, Righteously-Strong.

 

Now turning to the young girls and the infant, she was grinning from ear-to-ear.

 

“He is so beautiful Carol!” She said, eyes now locked onto the infant.

 

“Of course, he’s my child.” Carol gleamed with pride as her mother’s smile disappeared.

 

“Watch your Vain tongue!” The woman snapped. And once again with eyes softening. “Hand me that child and go finish cutting-out those biscuits on the counter, under the towel. And use a floured glass this time, please, like I told you a million times before. Don’t ruin that good dough!

 

Oh, and before I forget, take that 'straightening-comb' off the stove so I can finish your hair." she ordered, in after-thought. "I swear ya’ll gonna drive me to my grave. Well, go-on child! You too, Marie.” She directed, as the girls simultaneously rolled their eyes to meet each-other's gaze, while her own stayed lovingly- locked onto her grandchild’s.

 

Marie, who at first was nervously sitting and grinning like a Cheshire-Cat, had now begun to stand and gather the record albums, trying to remember not to open her legs too widely while straightening-out her dress as she stood.

 

Carol gently handed the boy to her mother, as both unconsciously gleamed two generations of maternal pride into each others (mutually) respectful eyes, she stood and strolled into the kitchen, as if on gossamer wings.

 

As the swinging door fell slowly to its last lay, and as she reached-out for the burner to turn down the heat on the now ‘red-hot’ straightening-comb, she fainted.

 

May 20, 2021 07:23

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6 comments

H L Mc Quaid
10:55 May 23, 2021

Hi Mark, What a nice slice of life, with great dialogue and characterisations. Good job creating believable characters. a few small things. In the this paragraph you say 'Marie continued' but that's the first time Marie has spoken, so it's a little confusing: "Desperately trying to smother an increasingly growing jealousy of the girl, Marie continued." And I didn't understand why this entire paragraph was italicised, the one starting with: "Her mother swept deftly through the swinging kitchen door and into the front-room.." It's still ...

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Mark Wilson
11:16 May 23, 2021

Hi Heather, Thank you so much for this in-depth critique! It's really appreciated! - understood about the 'Marie continued' - good catch! I'll fix that. Secondly, I'm not exactly sure why the paragraph where Carol's mother enters the room to "hover over them like a Dark Saint" was italisized, other than the fact that I am still learning to properly express myself as a short-story writer. That said... Excellent comment on your last critique, in that it 'didn't' follow a narrative arc or premise; that's because it is a part of a larger ...

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H L Mc Quaid
11:29 May 23, 2021

Ah, that makes sense, that's it's a snippet of a longer piece. I'm not sure I'd characterise myself as an 'author' per se, but I'm glad my feedback is useful. That's one of the best things about this platform, getting constructive feedback from others. I'm just thinking about some of my earlier pieces, 😱, and how much I've progressed through practice and engaging with others. I'd say, 'We all make each other better.' :)

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Beth Connor
02:58 May 22, 2021

I could really see myself as a fly on the wall in this story. You did an excellent job using dialogue for building the characters (especially the mom) I could hear her in my mind yelling at her son.

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Mark Wilson
08:40 May 22, 2021

Thank you, Beth! I wanted to bring-across her Zealous character as a strict disciplinarian as well. I thought it would add to the authenticity of the "Because I said so."

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Mark Wilson
08:47 May 20, 2021

Her name was, Audrey, and her mother was the inspiration for the Religious Matriarch in this story. We sat in the front-room (living-room) the entire time. I just wanted to hold her hand, maybe steal a kiss. She felt it necessary to explain what 'Vespers' meant ( I was 'Marie' in the story), before letting me, and then swiftly putting me out before her mother returned (from Vespers). She was honorable, and would have made her mother proud, I think. Her actions (and reactions) that nervous afternoon, would outline and help to define the R...

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