Questions Without Answers

Momma picks me up from my bus stop in the car today.

“We’re going to the grocery store,” she says with a tight smile as I bring my backpack to my chest and sit in the front seat beside her.

The old 1972 Ford LTD rattles at every bump, and I slide from left to right on the cracked leather upholstery.

“Put on your seatbelt,” Momma says.

“Why? Daddy never makes me?”

“Because I said so,” she says, frowning.

I pull the seatbelt across my belly, but it’s only a minute later that we pull into the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly.

I like it when I get to come to the grocery store without my brother or sister because it means I pick what’s for supper. Momma and I walk inside. As I always do, I put my hand on top of the buggy and walk with her.

“Isn’t that Sister Daniels?” I ask. She’s at the other end of an aisle we usually walk down first, but Momma turns and walks to the far end where the refrigerated section is.

I wait for her to ask, “What do you want tonight?”, but she doesn’t. She picks up a big roll of frozen ground beef patties.

“Are we having patties for supper?” I ask.

“Mmm,” Momma says. She looks left to right before moving, then speeds up to the canned goods where she snatches a few cans of green beans off the shelf.

“Can we have macaroni & cheese with it, Momma?” I ask.

She slows down in front of the boxed goods and grabs a blue Kraft box.

I read the box as it drops into the buggy.

“Why does it say cheese and macaroni?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” she says in an almost whisper.

“Why are you whispering?” I whisper.

“I’m not. Be quiet.”

We continue shopping. At the furthest end of the store where they keep the tissues and toothpaste and stuff, we stop. Momma takes a box of Trojans. I’ve seen them in Momma and Daddy’s room before. I’m curious what they do, but I asked once and got a spanking, so now I keep my mouth shut.

Momma looks from side to side again before sliding the box under the “cheese and macaroni” and walking a few feet. She grabs a pink box and reads it for a moment before wedging it between the groceries.

I tilt my head to the side and read the letters on the box. “Momma, what’s a di-a-phram?”

In one swift motion, her hand comes down onto mine. “I told you to be quiet,” she says with a glare. I try to not to cry, but it hurts. A lot.

I wipe my eyes. As we turn the corner, we meet Sister Daniels.

“Debbie, hi!” she says with a grin.

Momma gives a half smile but her cheeks are red as rosies. Momma’s face always turns red when she’s angry. Momma’s name is Debra, I want to say. She hates Debbie. I remember Dad’s friend made a joke once that it had something to do with her coming from Dallas. They laughed real hard, but I didn’t get it.

I stand and read the words on the blue box of macaroni while they talk. I am quiet as a mouse, just like my parents taught me, but I get bored and cross my legs.

“Oh, she needs to pee,” Sister Daniels says. “I should let you go.”

Momma pushes the buggy down to the checkout. “Don’t you ever embarrass me like that again.”

I hear the threat in her voice. She means to whip me when we get home.

Turns out, I was right.

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Little Friend

CW: child discipline

I sit on the edge of a bed and let my feet dangle from under my dress. On the floor below me, three girls I have only met once before are playing Barbie and Ken. Their long hair and dresses remind me of me.

I hear Dad talking in an adjacent room. His voice echoes across the house, “We love the church. We are so glad we met you. Our kids don’t have many friends.”

I look away, but once I notice they haven’t heard him, I crack my knuckles and show a smile. The oldest two girls glance over at me and whisper to themselves. My sister and brother aren’t with me, so I am outnumbered three to one. They think I’m boring.

“Ken’s weird,” I admit, biting the edge of my lip.

“Ken’s not weird,” the oldest and biggest of the girls says. “How old are you, anyway?”

“Six… and a halllffff,” I smile.

“I’m seven,” she says, puffing out her chest and sitting up straight.

“Cool.”

I remember Mom said they’re home-schooled, so I shouldn’t ask them about class or anything like that. I jump off the bed, do a big twirl, and watch my skirt float back beside my legs.

“Why do you think Ken is weird?” the middle girl asks.

“Cuz boys are different. Like my little bro,” I announce casually. “He’s got a little friend. Down there.”

I point both index fingers at my crotch and give a cheeky grin.

They snicker like little school girls, and I laugh with them.

“What’s his name?” the oldest asks.

“Jon-

“Jon!” they cry in unison.

“-athan. It’s Jonathan. You can’t call him Jon. Mom hates that name,” I stammer.

“Jonathan!”

Mom pokes her head in the door. Her expressionless face shows none of her concern, but her posture is rigid.

“What’s going on?” Mom asks. The trio chuckle as Jonathan peaks through the door beside Mom.

“Nothing. I was talking about Jonathan’s little friend and -”

Mom is part superhero. She passes the room faster than I can finish my sentence. She snatches my arm and digs her fingernails into my skin as she pulls me away. My grin fades, and I follow her, my legs barely keeping up with the speed.

She takes me into the bathroom and spanks me hard until I’m sore. Tears stream down my face. Is Jonathan’s little friend supposed to be a secret?

“We’re going home,” Mom tells Dad.

We load up in the car, and I try to sit on my less sore buttock. There’s silence the whole ride home, but I keep wanting to ask what I did wrong.

I never find out. I get the belt and sent to bed, and I never mention his little friend again.


The Ward

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TW: Child Separation

“She missed the bus,” Mary said. Her feet dangled off the side of the child’s chair. The heel of her little black shoe tapped the linoleum as it threatened to slip off her foot. She drew a big yellow circle in the centre of a blank page.

“Has your mommy missed the bus before?” Lynne asked, crouched down to Mary’s level. Her wireframe glasses sat loosely on the tip of her nose. After a couple of hours of giving the small girl cola and chocolates, toys and TV, which she refused fervently, it was the crayon set that seemed to pull her out of her shell. Lynne imagined her grey hair would look unkempt by now.

“Mama… My mama doesn’t like that word.”

“What word? Mommy?” Lynne narrowed her brow.

“Mm-hmm,” she answered. She shaded the yellow circle with fast thrusts. “My mama missed the bus because I was bad.”

“Has she done this before?”

“Uh-huh.”

She picked up a purple crayon and drew a face on the sun. One of her shoes dropped on the floor. Mary shifted her weight and crossed her leg to sit it under her bottom.

“Tell me why you think you were bad?”

“Cuz I was,” she shrugged.

Lynne patted the girl’s hand, and Mary dropped the crayon onto the table. With the most matter-of-fact tone, Mary started talking.

Mama likes her juice. I don’t. Her juice smells funny. Sometimes Mama is really fun to be around when she has her juice. But sometimes she’s mean. Sometimes I get in trouble for being bad.

Mama throws my toys away when I’m bad. But when she isn’t looking, I dig them out of the trash. She doesn’t know it, but I hide them. I have a secret place that I put them.

My pink sparkle magic wand was in her chair yesterday. I forgot it. It was supposed to turn the chair into a big throne so Mama could be a queen. But it didn’t. And she sat down. She snapped it in half with her butt.

She slapped my hand and called me a naughty girl. Then she threw my wand away.

But it was my favorite! So I took it out of the trash when Mama was on the toilet. I took it to my room to fix it but she finished too soon so I stuck it under my mattress.

Only she saw the star sticking out.

She made me sit in the corner, took all my toys and threw them in the trash.

“So see? I was bad. And Mama is punishing me,” Mary said.

Lynne looked at the little girl and wanted to give her a hug. “Your mother isn’t punishing you,” she wanted to say. “She passed out on the couch. You were lost and roaming the streets until uniforms came to pick you up. You poor dear.”

“What if I told you that someone new, someone better could be your mama?” Lynne asked.

Mary furrowed her brow, “No. My mama is my mama.”

“What if your new mama would let you have all the magic wands you wanted?”

“No!” Mary said, slapping Lynne in the face before running to a corner of the room.

Lynne stroked her cheek before walking out of the room. She locked the door and rested against it with a heavy sigh.

“That didn’t go so well,” her supervisor, Greg, said.

“I know I was too heavy-handed in the end there.”

“No easy way to do it. She’s a ward of the State now through no fault of her own.”

“Wish there was some way to tell her that,” Lynne said as her shoulders sagged. 

 

Image: Source

Music Memory

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It was a whim. No. More like a sudden desire. After years of collecting dust in the top of my closet, I decided to play my flute.

I pulled it out and opened the zipper to reveal the long rectangular case. The yellow polishing cloth stuck out from beneath the case. My fingers grazed the cloth. Without even realizing it, I slid it out and unfolded it as I snap the case open.

The silver Gemeinhardt sparkled within the granite colored fabric molds.

Memories of marching on the football field flooded my mind. For seven years there had been hours of band practice and concerts and yellow bus rides.

I connected the pieces together, fingered the keys, and blew through the mouthpiece to release any stray material that wasn’t there.

I remembered the music days with Dad, he with his keyboard and his friend with his guitar. He would ask me to play flute as Moody Blues echoed through the house. “Tuesday Afternoon” or “Nights in White Satin” were his favorites (neither of us liked Jethro Tull). I never heard how I sounded over the synthesizer and Dad’s bellowing vocals, but I always enjoyed that moment when I was part of the music.

I put my lips to the mouthpiece and blew. A weak sound resonated through the room, and I lamented at the tone. It was my embouchure. I might not have forgotten the correct fingerings for the notes, but I had lost my grasp of the signature pout. I sat up straighter and filled my diaphragm to blow harder. My natural vibrato came through, and I stopped to smile.

I remembered my senior year of high school. The band director named me first chair, despite my insistence that he had made a mistake. I was a passable flutist but never first chair quality. Still, he persisted, and despite the grumblings of the other flute players, he handed me the single piccolo the school budget could afford. It was the single best moment in my musical life. The look on Dad’s face that night made the memory even brighter.

I thought about how I’d won a solo contest later that year. Our band placed in the yearly competition even with me playing the piccolo. I wondered if I was too hard on myself growing up with my flute and if it was at all possible that if I’d practiced more instead of focusing on my vocals that maybe I could have done something more with my beautiful Gemeinhardt.

After high school, I barely touched my flute, yet it was still my pride and joy. I enjoyed music days with Dad as we played and sang Gospel music, and I remember thinking back then that when I had a family of my own I would make sure music was a part of our life together.

As I blew into the flute and released the uneven sound, my cat pawed at the instrument and sang with me. My dogs put their paws on my lap, cocked their heads to the side, and talked at me.

In a way, I guess I finally have what I dreamt of all those years ago – my own little family orchestra.

Image: Source

Practice

erasureerasure

Image (YeahWrite Winners Post #352)
I am attempting my first erasure poem. Most of the text has been blanked out. The remainder reads as such:

 

Practice
of crappy piping

Don’t
Noodle around with good enough –

Say I had fun.

It feels like fun
while you learn
but you’re frustrating
other…

See, while not the best
Writing picks are based on
style, pride
or

Kudos

Handy writing –
Critical feedback.
Highlight the good stuff.

Probably.