Contest #209 shortlist ⭐️

Voluntary Hostage

Submitted into Contest #209 in response to: Set your entire story in a car.... view prompt


Drama Sad Suspense

This story contains sensitive content

**Warning: Possible Triggers! Explicit Language, Mental Health, and Some Violence**


The voice; screaming , spittle flying, from the backseat through plumes of thick cigarette smoke belongs to my fourteen year old son. I am eighty-four days sober and am about to drive without a valid license to take him, for all practical purposes, to a ‘mental institution’ roughly seventy miles away. Smoke continues to roll toward the front of the car while outside, the Texas sky fills with dark, ominous clouds and a growl of thunder reverberates off the surrounding hills.

As I look out my window, a fork of lightning flashes intensely across the sky and then a hard and unexpected volley of kicks are delivered to the back of the passenger seat, violently jostling it in the chassis accompanied by an animalistic shriek of hatred. I startle. My hands shake and my heart takes off at a gallop. I fight back my own fury and try to remember what all of the therapists and the literature has told me; a negative response would be "completely counterproductive and only further inflame the situation…"

I take several slow calming breaths but I am pissed that my son thinks that in any realm of reality, I would feel okay with him brutalizing my vehicle. Thunder cracks loudly then rumbles lowly, making the windows rattle. My hands go from shaking to absolutely vibrating. I suddenly feel as if there is something constricting my flow of oxygen. I break into a clammy, sick sweat.

Furtively, I grab my purse and find the orange bottle. I hope, for once, that Kevin is too ensconced in his state of self-righteousness to notice or care about what I am doing. My left hand shakes as it pops the top off the bottle and I shake one of the tiny green pills onto my right palm. I tip my palm toward my mouth, and take a sip from my bottle of water. Kevin’s screech of accusation lifts me about a foot out of my seat:


Something warm, wet, and unwelcome smacks my right jaw and falls unceremoniously onto my blouse, where it remains. "Well, it could be worse, " I think, as I try to dry the spit from my face.


If he were anyone else, he might have received a stinging backhand across his face. However, this is my son, kind of... once we reach this point - Kevin kind of... checks out for a while, he is not at the helm, no one is steering the ship...

I put the car in reverse to back up and face our street, I longingly glance toward the house with its warm, amber light pouring from the windows.

The sun, once a fierce blaze in the sky, slides behind the clouds and is quickly obscured by the ever gathering mountain of thunderheads. I watch the clouds, pregnant with the rain, seem to sag under the weight, threatening to let go at any moment. I flip on the headlights, turn on the defrost, and put the car in drive. I try to keep Kevin in my periphery as I pull onto our road. I then turn left onto a two-lane highway.

Once, as a passenger in the front seat, while I was doing about eighty down I-10, he attempted to grab the steering wheel. Another time, he slapped me in the face as he was screaming , windows down, that I was kidnapping him and to please call the police! “Yes, someone call them!” I thought momentarily. Since those attempts, Kevin has been relegated to the backseat and only with the child locks engaged.

"Please, please let this go as smoothly as it can." I just have to make it down one other relatively brief stretch of highway and I'm headed to an onramp to the interstate.

To be honest, I probably should have pulled over and called 911 and let 'Crisis Management' handle his transport, but I just... couldn't. I couldn't call 911 on my son and unfortunately, he knows it. He knows it and he exploits it. I approach the onramp flip on my left blinker and merge into traffic.

In my experience, police that really understand someone in the throes of a mental health crisis are few and far between. I also did not want him to wind up in the custody of the State, in their hospital, or in jail facing charges for actions he may not even remember.

So, he rides in the back seat and listens to his music- LOUDLY, chain-smoking, and occasionally puffing on a joint.

"Yeah, I know, shame on me. So long as we can make it safely, and without incident, I no longer care." If I did call EMS and he were to flip the fuck out, the paramedics would forcibly hold him down and administer what is known as, "The Booty Juice," which is either a hefty dose of Haldol or a cocktail of antipsychotics that renders the person almost catatonic. My son was given this cocktail. He said that one moment, he was being pinned on the floor by burly orderlies and the next; he was in his bed, covered in Cheeto dust, roughly twenty-four hours later... I prefer the pot.

I set the cruise control and remember. My husband washed his hands of it awhile ago, having been the verbal punching bag one time too many. Kevin’s biological father currently resides in the local cemetery and has since the Boy turned two, so, no help there. Being the mother of a mentally ill child is one of the loneliest things.

I-10 is the primary reason the child locks are engaged… Well, I-10 and Kevin himself. He has threatened to jump before to, “just fucking end it all.” In a blind rage... I believe he actually could do it, which gives me nightmares. In these, his body leaves the car doing eighty down the freeway, then he flips, toes over nose, cartwheels, finally striking the pavement in such a way, I can hear skin rip and burst, and bones snap and shatter. Once his mangled body finally comes to a rest, a semi barrels toward him and crushes him. It’s essentially how his Daddy died and so far, his feet have beaten the same path as his Dad's, which scares me to death.

If I dream of, or even imagine this, all I can think about are those mesmerizing moments, so long ago, so fleeting, where I counted his tiny fingers and toes as an infant while staring into eyes of the deepest of blue, or how I blew raspberries on his tummy as a toddler and he shrieked with peals of laughter...

You see, a mother's error is that she often doesn't see things how they are. In my mind, my son is not a mentally disturbed adolescent in serious need of medical and behavioral healthcare intervention. He is a little boy, naked except for a pull-up and somewhat over-sized rain boots, sloshing his way around the backyard.

A frog wanders into his purview. He stoops, his tiny butt peeking out of the back of his pullup, and picks up the frog. While looking it in the eyes, he inquires in his saccharine 3-year-old voice, "Where your Mommy, Frog?" When it didn't reply, he held it up to his ear and proceeded to shake it a time or two in an attempt to get it to work.

He is forever my tousle-haired sweet boy asking for cereal while wearing his Spiderman pajamas, and shooting 'webs' about the kitchen.

Motherhood really is a force of nature. It transcends time and space. It holds the deepest empathy and unwavering forgiveness one will ever know. I was just on the brink of a panic attack, so scared it affected my physical self, and facing a potentially serious thunderstorm... I'd rather not but of course, I will... for him. It's for my Frog Whisperer in those Spiderman pajamas. I was and am more concerned with his immediate needs than my potential ones. 

He leans forward to grab the cord to charge his phone. Immediately, I flinch and shield my face with my forearm. For an instant, our eyes meet and in his, I see indescribable sadness and guilt. The moment passes, my eyes, back on the road as the ear-splitting sound of explicit rap erupts from the speakers. I crack my window an inch or two to help the smoke disperse, then I light up my own cigarette. With hands that remain unsteady, I take a deep drag and continue quiet contemplation.

Kevin has always been a handful. Before he was ten years old, we had been through three broken arms, several rounds of stitches, and more bumps, and bruises than I could count.

As a child, he had trouble in Elementary School; learning disabilities and behavioral issues. He was also dyslexic. He was in Speech therapy and was pulled out of class regularly for all of these programs that were to help him. Medication had been mentioned in a couple of Parent-Teacher Conferences’ but I just wanted to be as certain and as educated on it as I could be before giving my then eight year old, pharmaceutical grade speed.

With the blindfold of Adoration removed and the glasses of education on, it was plain as day, and we moved forward with the ADHD diagnosis and unfortunately, the meds. Now he was being called out of class once again everyday around lunchtime.

All of this set him up to be fodder for bullies. They shoved him into the wall or door and called him, “retard,” or, “faggot, regularly” They mocked him because his father was dead.

While the medication did help, it felt like he was a lab rat as he was switched from pill to pill to multiple or different pills and dosages. With that, came side-effects: weight-loss, weight-gain, insomnia, hypersomnia, random and involuntary tics.

Then - puberty struck. With it came his intense desire to not attend school, and his dramatically increased aggressive behavior that seemed to manifest from thin air.

This affected the entirety of our daily lives: our marriage, my relationships with my daughters, my livelihood, and it put severe strain on my friendships where well-intended people thought that Kevin "just needed a good, old-fashioned ass-whipping", or "a healthy place that could be a positive outlet for all that excess energy!" These people really just didn’t understand.

Then possible legal action against me arrived in the form of a certified letter from The State of Texas, hand-delivered to me by the Constable regarding Kevin's truancy. Years ago, when Kevin would refuse to get dressed, I would just carry him and his clothes and tell him it was his decision on how he wanted to arrive at school, in his undies, crying, or dressed for the day and put together.

I was at a breaking point; I was a powder keg. I had been written up at work for my tardiness, as had his sister’s.

Rain began to spatter the windshield in quick, fat drops that quickly became a deluge. I turned the wipers on high. We made it another ten miles before visibility forced us to a crawl. I risked a few glances at the rearview. The Wrath of Kevin was receding as fast as it came on. As we continue down I-10, I start to feel the same way I always do at this point: Uncertain, full of doubt.

Why am I looking to have him admitted? He’s all but docile now, is it really necessary? “Okay, yes,” he threatened to strike a female classmate but he didn’t. She is his Constant Tormentor. Isn’t this just Kid Shit that should be sorted out at school? Is it really worthy of all this?

The rain begins to let up as we approach a town on the outskirts of the San Antonio city limit. It's just a steady drizzle now. I think of the stack of referrals from school that I brought along (to aid in my ‘transgression) that are tucked away with my anxiety medication that began as an, “as needed,” basis but had now become a, “two times daily,” prescription. I let up on the gas pedal and let the car coast down to the speed limit of the fast approaching town. Beneath the booming music and the noise of the storm, I hear the sad and helpless, crying coming from the backseat. I use the master audio control on my steering wheel to turn the volume off.

Please talk to me, Son,” I implore, feeling hot tears well up in my eyes and I struggle to swallow around the lump in my throat.

I wasn’t going to hit her! Dammit! I don't want to be locked up in there, Mom! Mommy?"

My heart feels as if it might implode as I listen to his terrified appeal. Internally, I scold myself and remind myself of the referrals. I tell myself I am doing the right thing and not to be manipulated by this abrupt change in demeanor. The thing is, his apology or explanation might very well be steeped in truth but...

We reach San Antonio and pass Fiesta Texas. The roller coasters rising steeply up in the dark grey day, waver, dreamlike outside the rain soaked windows.

Please, Mom? Please don’t send me away again?” A tear betrays my false bravado by sliding miserably down my cheek. I sniffle audibly. Not too far ahead of us is the off ramp that will take us to the side street where the hospital is... whose doors only lock from the outside.

The silence between us after the music, the intense but brief thunderstorm, and the noise of the tires eating up the road is excruciating. I slow to a stop and turn on my blinker to pull into the parking lot. His soft crying becomes sobs of stark fear. He is begging, incoherent now. He's drooling and rocking back and forth, curled into a tight ball. I find a parking spot, slide into it, and press the button to kill the engine. I look at Kevin, desperately searching his face as if it holds the key to release me from the ambiguity I feel trapped in.

“… Kevin screamed in the face of an elderly cafeteria employee after throwing his tray across the room…” whispers a snippet of a referral. I begin taking out my earrings and then release the catch to remove my necklace. I drop them into my coin purse. I intentionally wore shoes without laces. I remove my rings; and add these things to my coin bag.

"... Kevin punched hole in hallway wall after being removed from class for throwing his desk and calling Mrs. Jiminez a ‘f***ing c***’…

While surreptitiously peeking at my son in the rearview mirror, a war rages between my heart and my mind. I undo my watch, grab my cell, and shove everything deep into my purse. I grab my wallet, extricate my ID, and his insurance card, along with the stack of damning referrals.

I take a shuddering breath and with palms pouring sweat, I cram my purse into the glove box and lock it. The noises from the backseat have quieted, there’s an occasional moan or whimper of possible contrition and acquiescence. “Good,” I presume, “maybe getting him from the car to the hospital won’t be that bad. The hospital where he loses his identity and becomes a patient number..."

I place both hands on the steering wheel and take several centering breaths, then I open my door, and slide the ID cards into my back pocket while stepping out of the car. The rain has all but stopped.

Timidly, I open his door and prepare myself for ease of transition or a chase through the sprawling urban jungle. I am on edge, fucking fried, and so exhausted. Sometimes I wonder if the relief I feel when I leave this place has more to do with him getting help or with me having a moment to breathe. "Who is this really for?" I reach my hand out to him in a show of solidarity.

His hand reaches out, quick as a snake, and smacks my hand away. He steps out of the car, towering over me. Looming over me... For a moment, I am truly afraid of my son, my Frog Whisperer..

“Stupid bitch,” is his snarling response as he stomps off. My hand falls slack at my side, I swallow all of my feelings, then square my shoulders and follow in his brisk wake toward the entrance.

August 01, 2023 20:37

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


Frances Gaudiano
19:30 Aug 08, 2023

How painful and honest this story is. I'm too blown away to say anything else.


Show 0 replies
Cinnamon Girl
06:38 Aug 06, 2023

This is great. I like how honest and real you are about how hard it is. It’s damn hard.


Show 0 replies
Philip Ebuluofor
18:18 Aug 13, 2023

Sounds real. Congrats.


Show 0 replies
Mary Bendickson
17:10 Aug 11, 2023

O,wow. My heart goes out to all of you that have expressed what your lives have been like. May you find comfort in the strength of a loving Father. Congrats on the shortlist, Kay. Thanks for the follow. And liking 'Is Anybody Down There'


Kay Smith
18:01 Aug 11, 2023

Thank you!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.