On Route

I want to get laid for the first time.

I mean, I’m sixteen and the only thing I’ve poked is the odd pimple on my chin.

Yeah, I’m frustrated.

“What are you thinking about, honey?”

“Nothing, Ma.”

There’s no way I’ll tell her. There’s a mother-son line you just don’t cross. Like talking about sex, hugging or any affection, period. Oh, and no more dropping me off at school either. I catch the bus.

“You sure, honey?” she says. Her hands are white on the steering wheel.

We’re going to visit a woman called Grandma. I don’t know her. But I remember her house.

“Yeah, Ma.”

“Because you know you can talk to me, right?” She looks at me. Her eyes are open, worried.

“Yep.”

“Good, good. Everyone needs someone to talk to.” She nods her head at the road and mumbles something to herself. She does that.

 

Ma

According to the boys at school my ma’s a MILF. A ma they’d like to fuck. She’s more like a PITA. Pain in the arse. Well, she can be. When she’s on my back about doing things together. Like movies. I mean, doesn’t she get that it’s dorky? She has issues. And no friends.

“How’s therapy going?” I say.

It shits me. Like, maybe if I’d inherited her genes, and not my anonymous father’s, I would have been laid by now. My father must come from an ugly gene pool and his sperm killed my chance at good looks. Maybe if I wasn’t a result of a one night stand and they’d taken their time, it would have been different. It doesn’t bother me. It really doesn’t.

“It’s going good, honey. Doc’s been a great help.”

What? Oh, yeah her sessions. She’ll need two next week after today’s visit. She did last time. That’s what she said. I was younger, then.

“We don’t have to go, Ma. If she makes you feel worse.”

“That was in the past.” Sweat’s stuck her blond hair to her forehead. “We can’t run away from our fears. And this, this visit’s goodbye.”

Ah…yeah, okay.

“It’s goodbye.” She bites her lip. “I have a few things to say to her face. Before she goes.”

“Hmm…”

“They’re for me, not her. I have to say them for me. Hon,” she says worry spilling out of her eyes, “you know not to listen to her, right? Don’t listen to a word she says—”

“I know,” I say, chewing a nail. “They’re only words.”

But whatever they are, these words, they mean something to Ma. Otherwise we wouldn’t be going and the next time she’d see Grandma would be in a hole. She said that once. “I mean, she’s your ma. How bad can she be?”

Her lips move like she’s gonna be sick. “Thanks for coming with me, hon.”

“Like I’d leave you alone.” A real man knows when he’s needed.

And my ma needs me.

 

Cobwebs

Grandma’s house is like something on the front cover of an R.L Stine book. Minus the ghosts. That’s on the outside. Inside it smells…old. Like my room when the windows are locked and I’ve been farting.

I don’t remember her.

I remember…cobwebs.

And emptiness.

It’s still…empty.

Except for the couches and the dead pot plant.

And the cobwebs. They’ve changed. There’s more since last time, hanging off the ceiling, sticky, complicated. Bit like how it would be when I get laid. If I ever do.

 

 

The Man in the Room

A man is sitting in Grandma’s room, near her bed. The room stinks of breath, when it’s sick.

“Hey ya kid,” he says to me.

“Hey.” I don’t touch him. He’s all shabby. Hairy, matted.

“You’ve grown up.”

“That’s your uncle Barry,” says Ma. She smiles, but it looks like someone’s pinched her face.

“Yeah.” I’m related to that? I could’ve been worse. I could’ve looked like him.

Ma walks to the bed. I go with her, standing close. Hear her breathing. Quick. There’s a big cross above the bed, hanging, heavy.

I see Ma’s hand tremble. I hold it. Breaking the rules, crossing the line, but they’re my rules to break. My hands hurt, fingers sting where I’ve chewed them.

I ignore my heart. Why is it tap, tap, tapping so hard?

I reckon this is how it would beat when I’m naked, stiff, about to lose it.

 

Venom Vomit

Choking sounds.

Coming from the bed that looks empty.

Almost.

There’s a bump in the middle. We get closer. It looks like bones, piled up, in the shape of a human.

“She’s nearly gone,” says Barry. He mouths bitch.

“I’m still alive, you prick.” The bones talk, click together, sharp. “Who you talking to? One of your thief friends?”

He looks miserable, like sadness has curled the hair on his face.

We reach the bed. Bones hide in skin, grey, wrinkly.

“It’s me,” Ma says. She squeezes my hand, hard.

“Huh, look who it is, Barry. It’s the slut I spat out.”

Black eyes look at me. Squint. I’m not scared.

“And her skinny bastard.”

Ma squeezes. Harder.

“Say whatever you want, they don’t affect me. Not anymore.” Ma’s stiff. Head high. “They are nothing. Just words.”

And harder.

“See this, Barry?” The bones nod at me. “That’s what happens if you let every cock come between your legs!”

Words Will Never Hurt Me

I’m hot…I’m hot and words are exploding in my head.

Bastard. Cock. Slut.

Her words are all dead, broken in my brain. Nothing’s survived, no words are coming.

Ma’s trembling. I squeeze her hand. My hand slips. Hot, burning.

“I’ve forgiven you, Mum.” Ma’s shaky voice. Forgiving bones.

A laugh. Shrill.

Bones scrape against bones.

Still there’s no words, but I’m sweating and sweating, down my back.

The minutes tick, tick, tick and I still drown, trapped. My clothes stick to me like I stick to Ma.

Scared.

Of words.

Bastard. Slut. Cock.

I’m not scared. Say it. Can’t say it!

I’m not scared!

“I’m here, Ma. She’s not gonna hurt you. I’m here.”

Earthquake in my head.

Say it, say it!

“Ma’s not a slut! You are!”

Waves and waves swallow me.

One for the Road

I hear nothing.

But Ma’s crying in the front.

Tears stick her hair to her mouth. “I’m sorry, hon, I’m sorry.” She rocks, hitting her head on the steering wheel. “I shouldn’t have brought you.”

I touch her forehead, make her stop. Wipe her face; it’s wet with tears and spit. My hands no longer trembling.

“You did fine, Ma,” I say, “real fine.”

She nods, mumbles, nods again. She starts the car. “Thanks, hon.”

We drive away from the house.

The house with cobwebs and ghosts.

The End

This story placed 73rd in the 2011 Writers Digest Short Story Competition’s Young Adult category

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