28 comments

Fiction Drama

Mom’s eyes are popping out. “I wish you were never born,” she’s screaming, “If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be stuck here.” 


Maybe she’s mad I messed up on stage. Maybe she’s mad we’re in Tulsa, I don’t know. Sometimes when I make mistakes she hugs me and tells me how much she loves me, so it's hard to tell.


“Get out!” she says, and then takes her angry look up another level. I back up toward the hotel room door. My neck and legs are trembling uncontrollably. I can’t think of anything to say and go into the hallway to give her space to cool off. There's a clunk-clunk sound. The door is now locked from the inside.


I’m in a hotel in a city I don’t know. If I try to go anyplace, she’ll probably get angrier, so I sit down in the hallway until I can figure things out. I’m only 13, and I don’t have a credit card and can’t survive by myself. I’ve told mom I’m going to call the police if she does this again. Next time. 


I’m bored sitting here with nothing to do, so I scroll through the photos on my iPhone, stopping on pictures of mom. She has such a nice smile in photos. We actually look like a happy family together.


I text some of my friends and let them know my life sucks, again.


Dylan texts back, and unhelpfully tells me, “omg #samantha you are the main character on ig today”


I open Instagram. There’s a 3-second clip, of me sneezing. It zooms in on me wiping the slobber off my face with my hand. And freezes on my stupid shocked face. I check the comments.


“dead rofl” followed by ten crying eye faces, is the first comment.


I feel like I want to throw up. I decide not to look at any more comments, and just stare at the wall paper across the hallway and count the lines in the pattern.


The elevator bell rings. There’s a person walking toward me down the hallway, and she’s wearing the La Quinta hotel uniform. She looks sympathetically at me sitting on the floor.


“Are you ok? Did you get locked out of your room?” she asks, in a high-pitched fake voice, the one that adults use to talk to children they don’t know.


“No,” I tell her. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say. She looks at me like I’m supposed to explain myself more.


“Miss, which room number are you staying in?”


I point at the door I’m sitting in front of. She reaches over my head and knocks on the door.


She says in a loud voice, “I think you have someone out here who belongs to you.”


She knocks again, even harder.


Without warning Mom suddenly opens the door.


“Thank you! She’s just having a timeout.” Mom giggles and smiles at the hotel employee as if we are just playing a game. Mom is good at defusing bad situations.


The hotel lady relaxes and says, “No problem, enjoy your stay.” They are always happy not to have to deal me.


Once I’m inside Mom closes the door and her smile disappears. “Just stay quiet and don’t talk to me. Not a word.” 


I go to bed and hold myself as still as possible. Mom is sensitive to noise.


**


The next morning, Mom is happy again.


“Samantha, I know we have been stuck in Oklahoma for 6 days,” she says, ”but tomorrow we are going to Texas! They have great food in Texas and live music too.”


I don’t see how either of these affect me, but she seems happy about it.


“My little girl, you would die of boredom without me,” mom says. “Sit down, I'll brush your hair.”


We stayed in Tulsa because, between shows, the hotel rooms are cheaper. My mom doesn’t like to drive, so we stay close to the airport. Dad can't come with us as he needs to do dialysis for his kidney problem twice a week. That's hard to organize on the road.


I move over to Mom, her warm hand holds my shoulder and the other brushes my hair, over and over. This always feels good. One of the few times I feel like she’s really a mother. She sings something. I think it's 90s music, and I sing along softly once I get a feeling for the melody.


That night, we eat our last dinner in the hotel restaurant and then go back up to our room. Mom pours a glass of white wine for herself. As soon as she takes her first sip, she's in a really good mood. She tells me the story again of how grandma met grandpa. He was in the hospital recovering being attacked by his first wife. Grandma was visiting a relative at the hospital, and saw him there and felt sorry for him. She says she thinks I might have some cousins I’ve never met. It's a family secret.


She changes the topic.


“Don’t worry about the sneezing video. These people in Oklahoma probably don’t understand your talks anyway,” and she breaks out into semi-manic laughter.


I don’t get her joke, but I say, “that’s a real knee slapper!” and try to smile.


“They don’t have education here.”


This feels wrong. “You shouldn’t put people down! They are just as smart as everyone else.”


“You don’t get my jokes because of your Asperger syndrome.”


She always says I have Asperger when she just doesn’t want to listen to me. I turn on the TV to try to change the subject. She turns it off.


“Just remember if you weren’t born," mom says firmly, "it would be me up on stage. Now, let's practice your moves for tomorrow.”


We spend what feels like an hour practicing my whole talk, and the way I hold my eyes open at one point, and then look sad at another part, and my other theatrical moves.


At the end of our practice Mom out of the blue says, “Give me back the cigarette,” and holds her hand out.


“What?!” I say.


“I could tell from your face you stole one again.”


I never get away with anything. She can read my mind.


So, I know cigarettes are bad for me. And if you want to know about my mental health, the doctor said I don’t have Asperger. He said mostly I have ADHD and maybe a little bit of some other things. He talked to Mom privately, and they decided I needed to take pills. And then, 2 months later Mom changed her mind, and said the pills are going to make me go crazy, and I should stop taking them. The only thing I noticed is that they made me thirsty. I’m happy not to have to deal with that anymore.


And pills? I think Mom expected a magical change in me, but of course I didn’t change at all.


The next morning, she wakes me up.


“Samantha, time to wake up my little girl.”


“Uhhh, I’m 13. I’m not a little girl.” I’m not good at waking up in the morning.


“I brought your breakfast, with 10 different food items”, she says, “it's important that a growing girl gets proper nutrition.”


“Thanks mom,” I say, and get up to eat.


“Samantha. My little refrigerator,” she says, ”remember don’t eat too fast.”


That nickname, because of my thick shoulders. I got those from my dad. Mom and Dad don't seem to know how to talk to each other very well. Maybe teaching me to become a public speaker became their project to give them something to do together.


Anwyays, while we’re waiting in the hotel reception checking out, everyone is looking at me and its making me jumpy. The counsellor calls this anxiety. I’m happy when we can get out of there.


Family update. My aunt Jessica lives in Dallas, and I really like her. Aunt Jessica talks a lot about what one could say are “normal topics”, and helps get my mom to relax.


She said she would be waiting for us at the airport when we arrive. But, disaster! The second my mom sees Aunt Jessica she freaks out.


“You want something from me, I can tell. I’m going to take a taxi,” mom says to her in a near shriek, in public.


Aunt Jessica pleads, ”But I’m your sister,” and makes sad eyes.


I hold mom’s arm and don’t let her leave. Eventually, Mom says she doesn't like this but agrees that a taxi would be a waste of money and lets Aunt Jessica drives us to the show. I think the plan was we will stay at her house tonight.


On the drive, Mom and my Aunt catch up on life. Aunt Jessica laughs at mom's jokes and stories so loudly. I'm just loving to see Mom's serious mood lighten up at last. Mom mentions some of her crazier plans, such as her, which means us, adopting a fruit only diet, or moving to Wyoming and living off the grid with no electricity. Aunt Jessica giggles and then gives her a few stories of people doing similar things that didn't work out, and amazingly, Mom agrees with her.


We arrive at the Southlake Theater and sign in. The backstage guys are low-key creepy as usual. Overly friendly. Maybe because I’m in middle school or maybe because I’m a little bit famous. 


Wehn I'm getting ready, I can’t hear what hipster bearded guy in front of me is saying because I have my headphones on. I take them off.


“What are you listening to? Anything good?” he’s saying, in a too loud voice like he thinks I still have the headphones on.


“ASMR”, I tell him.


“What's that?” 


“Listening to the sound of people opening gifts,” I explain.


"Oh, cool,” he says nodding his head affirmatively as if he’s really into the idea, but I know he’s not.


When he gives the signal, I go through the curtains and walk on stage. 


I hear the emcee say, “FREDx Dallas! Give a big Texas hello to motivational speaker Samantha Jackson!”


There’s a thousand people clapping like crazy. I usally wish I could turn invisible when two people look at me in a restaurant, but on stage, I don’t think about it, I just think about what I’m going to say and do next.


“Hi everyone, I’m Samantha,” I pause, “but you already know that.”


They chuckle a bit.


“Today, I’m going to teach all of you… how to feel good!”


I pause and count to three in my head.


“All of you 40 somethings, I betcha you didn’t think you would learn something from a 13-year-old today, would you?” I throw up my arms, and everyone laughs.


“Let's start by checking in how much the same we all are”, I say, ”raise your hand if you pooped today. And yes. You heard the question right.”


I raise my hand. The people in the audience looks left and right at each other. And then about half of them raise their arms.


“Good job people!” I say in my cheerleader voice.


And then, in a lower voice, I say, “the rest of you need to join the next FREDx talk on pro-biotics right after this one.”


I keep going and do my 13 minutes. I make the audience laugh, and also make them feel sad a few times. Its well rehearsed.


I wish I had a formula for making Mom happy.


The host comes out again and says, “now everyone, give a round of applause for Samantha Jackson!”


The audience cheers. One person stands up, and then everyone stands up, and they are cheering like crazy. I say thank you 20 times and then walk backstage. I’m worried. I’m not sure how good I was today, I look for Mom. I see her. She’s standing with Aunt Jessica.


Mom sees me and looks happy. I’m so relieved. Mom comes over, hugs me and says, “Samantha, great job!”


“Thank you mom.”


“And I have something for you. Here it is,” handing me a small box.


I open it and it’s a pendant, I turn it over. I see my name on it.


"You did a great job today," she says.


I’m so happy my heart is almost melting.


"And one more thing."


And, oh no. This is when the bad news usually get delivered. I get ready.


Mom says, "I've been talking with Aunt Jessica about moving to Dallas to be close to family. My idea. What do you think about that?"


I look over and see my Aunt waving at me. She winks.


"Yes great idea, Mom." I throw my arms around her and hug her again, squeezing my face into her shoulder. I try to hide the tears in my eyes but I can't stop them from streaming out. Life on the road with only the two of us has not been easy.


In Dallas, with Aunt Jessica's help, I learn to be more aggreeable with Mom. Sometimes people just need their ideas to be listened to, right? And Mom is happy to have someone on her wavelength around more often, and she even starts paying more attention to Dad. I think I'll update my speech to talk more about family, even if it doesn't get as many laughs as the fart jokes, people might learn something.

August 30, 2022 02:12

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

28 comments

Craig Westmore
00:50 Sep 01, 2022

Great relationship story, Scott. I'm glad you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried a drama. The back and forth between the mother and daughter is tension-filled. I love this line: “Are you ok? Did you get locked out of your room?” she asks, in a high-pitched fake voice, the one that adults use to talk to children they don’t know. This line is great too. Just fix the typo "deal with me" The hotel lady relaxes and says, “No problem, enjoy your stay.” They are always happy not to have to deal me. Two typos here (misspelled inside, miss...

Reply

01:28 Sep 01, 2022

Thanks those are all good points! I've made some tweaks. Yeah sometimes its better to throw in one line of context, 'here's my motivational speech..' instead of having the reader just not know what's going on. And I added a paragraph earlier in the story of why the aunt would be so helpful to Samantha to help smooth mom out a bit.

Reply

Craig Westmore
13:05 Sep 01, 2022

Actually, I was wondering what the format of the event was. Are multiple people there to give speeches? I got that Samantha was famous, but I didn't think people would show up and pay for a 15 minute speech. Maybe various organizations pay good money for her to open a conference or seminar. And then you can hint at how she got famous in the first place.

Reply

13:11 Sep 01, 2022

Thats all true, a lot of people wouldnt be familiar with that . At ted seminars about 7-8 speakers give short ten minute talks about very different topics. Having her open for some unique organization could make it even more interesting in the story.

Reply

Craig Westmore
19:45 Sep 01, 2022

Yeah, it could just be a one line explanation. And hint that she has been an online influencer since she was six which is why the Instagram post was so devastating.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Michał Przywara
21:21 Aug 30, 2022

Ah, the irony of miserable people telling others how to feel good :) It's a play on the whole sad clown trope, or perhaps any performer in general. Public image vs private life. A child performer is certainly a good take on the prompt. The audience only sees the end result and none of the ugliness on the other side. I think Samantha has a decent voice here, and I like how her mother comes across as well. She blames her daughter for her own failures, and though she claims she would be the one on the stage if not for Samantha, we have our d...

Reply

00:52 Aug 31, 2022

Thanks these insights are super helpful. It's a new genre for me, so I thought I'd put a rough draft out there to get advice if there's anything i'm totally off on. As you say its following a trope/cliche pretty closely, and I feel I need to add something a little bit more, thanks for giving me a nudge and a few new ideas;). And all good line edits.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Craig Westmore
00:56 Sep 01, 2022

I'm curious. How do you label a story as a draft?

Reply

Michał Przywara
01:36 Sep 01, 2022

Oh, I don't think there is a specific mechanism built into Reedsy. In this case, the story text literally began with "[draft]" (or something like it) and it looks like Scott's updated it since.

Reply

Craig Westmore
13:01 Sep 01, 2022

That's a great idea. I used to edit my stories solo and submit on Friday. But I like the idea of submitting early with a [draft] label and getting feedback while I'm still working on the story. I tried it last week and it really helped. I just gotta keep an eye out for when you guys need feedback.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Graham Kinross
08:50 Nov 24, 2022

Amazing how the internet seemed like it would unite the world when it started off, social media brought people together, communities gathered. Now its a major new source of bullying. The creativity people put into being terrible people and think nothing of it is hideous. Putting a clip of someone having a bad time on instagram must happen every moment and yet it should always be shocking how it dehumanises us. "the one that adults use to talk to children they don’t know," which they don't realise makes children hate them for being condescen...

Reply

10:25 Nov 24, 2022

Thanks for reading one of my older stories. As you say, that's exactly what works on social media, make someone look bad and get millions of views. Or the left and right scare tactics. Sort of why I decided to turn all that off, and come over here to try to learn real writing that might help build some empathy and bring people together. The young girl is working to get her mother's approval. And I'm trying to show that people that have problems or are bipolar have glimmers of warmth and kindness. And tolerating our parents until we grow old...

Reply

Graham Kinross
11:11 Nov 24, 2022

I think if you find characters you love then you’ll be able to write and write about them. Sometimes I write something and it just feels finished. It’s an idea that feels done. Other times a character I created gives me ideas for more stories and I want to keep going writing about them. If you find the character you want to write about then you won’t find it hard to build a world around them and write a story as long or as short as you like.

Reply

16:34 Nov 24, 2022

Thats a great insight, yeah a plot just hits an end (most of my stories arw plot based) but developing characters can keep going and going. Im going to start on character sheets and back stories for some potential ideas to stretch into a novel length story.

Reply

Graham Kinross
21:59 Nov 24, 2022

I guess the big question is what genre you’re going for but you can come up with the character and then twist their backstory to fit that after.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Graham Kinross
21:59 Nov 24, 2022

I guess the big question is what genre you’re going for but you can come up with the character and then twist their backstory to fit that after.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Daniel Allen
17:56 Sep 04, 2022

I really enjoyed this. I loved how you managed to reveal the characters and the true situation gradually over time. I think it worked really well!

Reply

Show 0 replies
07:29 Sep 04, 2022

Samantha is a fascinating character. I like that she listens to ASMR, it gives her depth and quirkiness that suits her unusual life. I was intrigued throughout.

Reply

Show 0 replies
T.S.A. Maiven
17:01 Sep 03, 2022

Well done! Very much enjoyed the scene settings. A good read.

Reply

17:29 Sep 03, 2022

Thx for reading and commenting tsa maiven;)

Reply

T.S.A. Maiven
20:24 Sep 04, 2022

You're welcome!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Sheehan
14:42 Sep 03, 2022

Loved this take on the prompt. Really interesting look at the parent-child dynamic through the lens of a child star. Well done!

Reply

16:50 Sep 03, 2022

thx for reading, happy to hear it worked, it was a change of genre from my earlier stories and a real challenge

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
H L Mc Quaid
14:28 Sep 02, 2022

Hi Scott, Really good scene setting, showing us who these people are in the first few paragraphs and then showing the more complicated dynamics at work. As for suggestions.... Might up the engagement if she's on stage sooner, so we understand what her role is, against the cruel juxtaposition of her reality. Also the ending could pack more of a punch. The tone changes quite suddenly, and it's difficult to buy the mother coming up with such a radical plan when she's been so self-centred for so many years. Samantha, as the protagonist, would...

Reply

14:40 Sep 02, 2022

Nice to hear u liked the scene and characters. Thanks those are good suggestions, a more active character arc is something ive been thinking about. Im thinking of a few possibilities and might update.

Reply

Show 0 replies
17:31 Sep 03, 2022

Update: the story was accepted and locked for changes, but i completely hear what you were saying about having a more active m.c. and will remember that in the future.

Reply

H L Mc Quaid
17:50 Sep 03, 2022

Oh gosh, no worries. It's a good story! I was just trying to see if there were ways to push it further, and an active MC is basically required for screenwriting, so that's what I tend to look for. 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Cynthia Prokarym
20:40 Sep 03, 2022

I enjoyed this story. 🙂 Great job.

Reply

Show 0 replies