I can't believe the size of the balls he's suddenly grown. My little man, standing at the edge of the cliff where he'll either soar into adulthood or burst into a million pieces at the rocky bottom of the canyon.
"What did you just say to me?" I gag on the words, flinging the glob of spit that has collected in the corner of my mouth down the front of my terrycloth robe. He hates this robe more than anything else; he's hated it since he was three. It's green. He hates anything green. I don't care. I still put lima beans and green peas on his plate, lettuce on his sandwiches. I'm his mother and he will thank me someday when he's big and strong.
"You heard me," he says. "You're a big, fat cow."
Oh, no, he did not just add big, fat. Right now, it's taking all I have not to hit him in his thirteen-year-old mouth and my entire arm shakes as I lift my beer to my lips. Right now, steam is blowing out of my ears like a cartoon. Right now, I need another drag off my Marlboro before I can respond.
"Look, I'm willing to cut you a break, kid. Why don't you just walk away?" God, that was weak.
I need to whip his ass. I need his father to whip his ass. Too bad the sack of shit hasn't called in four years.
"WHY DON'T YOU GET YOUR OWN LIFE AND STAY OUT OF MINE!" He's yelling now. His face is all red and his eyes hurt me. His fists are clenched like he's going to do something. I need to think. Think. Think.
Take another drag off the Marlboro. You can handle this. You are the mother here. He's just a bratty little kid who needs a nap. He is not your ex-husband coming home drunk and looking to punch a hole in something, namely your cheek. He's just a kid, a kid. What is he doing? Why is he making that face?
"Baby, please just calm down," I say. "There is no need " I reach out to touch his arm, to comfort my son whose whole body pulses. I watch the veins in his neck bulge and he's grinding his teeth. His eyes are black. Shit, he is a monster.
Oh, I am definitely not prepared for this. I trip over the dog and fall back on the couch. I spill my beer.
"Go to your room," I say in a whisper.
He stomps out of the den and out the front door. He's gone. He beat me. He's not a little boy anymore. He's a man and he's won.
The door slams and shakes the whole house, knocking the family picture off the wall. It explodes, the only one we ever had taken. There I am with his worthless father, all smiles. And him, five years old, grinning with red Kool-Aid stains around his mouth.
I remember that day at Sears, how nervous I was that he would be scared and wouldn't want to smile for the camera and then my ex-shithead would freak out and hit me in front of the lady taking the pictures, or worse, hit the kid. But none of that happened. We all smiled and she clicked and clicked and then we went to McDonalds and got ice cream.
I should go pick up the glass, but I'm not in the mood to be reminded how much that shattered picture represents our whole world right now.
Instead, I light a smoke and wait for my son to come home.
He can't stay out there forever.
This work is copyrighted by the author, Leigh Hughes. All rights reserved.