I should check on him, she thought. No. Gotta be hard or he’ll walk all over me. She stretched her legs across the couch and leaned against the arm, smoking with what seemed to be a kind of fury for the cigarette. The boy, two and a half, had stopped crying, but his sniffles were deliberately loud and annoying.
A commercial on the television showed a little girl holding her daddy’s hand and ordering a happy meal. The clean face gleamed at the camera and said something cute that made the mother on the couch smile, but she’d fail to remember the joke when talking about it later. Her son stopped sniffling and tried to find a toy, but in doing so, pulled several others on the floor with a crash of hard plastic.
“I told you I didn’t want to hear anything from you,” his mother shouted over the end music for Jerry Springer. The boy set the toy down on the carpet slowly, carefully, and lay down beside it.
It’s almost lunch time, she thought. She had expected him to come in and whine about being hungry two hours ago, but he had been quiet. She had slapped his head for spilling his breakfast. The cereal bowl was still on the floor. Better pick it up, she thought. Opening the pack of cigarettes, she told herself, I’ll see what he’s up to after this.
Some time during the middle of Days of Our Lives, she reached for the ashtray on the floor. As she lifted it, she heard it clink against the hairbrush. She exhaled and a plume of smoke followed the butt into the ashtray. She picked up the hairbrush and remembered that she’d promised never to do with it as her mother had done. Aloud, she said, “Well, it was in my hand.” She winced as she remembered the sharp whack against her legs, her arm, her back, her –.
She ran to his room. He was asleep, but when she called his name, his eyes were immediately fixed on the toy he feared picking up. She raised him to his feet, but he stumbled into her embrace. She kissed his face, his forehead, and felt the lump behind his ear. She kissed that too and sobbed. He smiled up at her, grateful to smell the mix of hair spray and smoke.
first published at Flash Flooding