the instructor pushed me to enter this story into a contest because she was really impressed by it. she was one of those people that just dogged my tracks until i finally agreed to submit the story for possible publication just to get her off my back. no big deal, right? just submit the paper, wait to be turned down, and then go on my merry way. well, the problem was that my story was chosen for publication in the university magazine, my name was published in the paper, and i received a small cash prize. it was a small amount of fame, and my parents were so proud -- until they read it. my father was still proud, but my mother thought that this story made her look like a bad parent. she was very upset w/ me for advertising her flaws to the world.
so, to set the record straight -- my mother spent quite a lot of time looking at old pictures and crying, it was upsetting to me to see her sad but i didn't understand, i never remember feeling unloved or insecure. the basic truth -- i had to write a story for class and this is the product.
Okay, time for some candy. Maybe, if I be real quiet, Mom won’t notice. The back door always squeaks real loud, so I’ll go in the sliding door. Then, if she’s not in the front room, I can crawl through the little window in Dad’s office. The office is where Dad keeps all the farm papers and checkbook stuff. The desk is real big and the bottom drawer is for me. I have my very own checkbook to write checks out of when I help him do his paperwork. My checks are so much nicer that his ‘cause I use so many colors to write my name with. There is a typewriter on the desk, but I’m not s’pose to touch it ‘cause the keys’ll break. There’s a little window right over the typewriter that looks into the kitchen. If I pull the chair over to the desk, step on the typewriter--on the back of it ‘cause the keys’ll break if I step on ‘em--then I can crawl through the window without Mom knowin’.
I gotta move all that junk first. Scotch tape holder, stamps, letter opener, and bills that need to be in the office. Dad calls these bills his “love letters” from the people he buys stuff from, but I don’t think he means it ‘cause he always frowns when he says it. The window is about as big as a notebook, but that’s bigger than I am. I try to put one leg through first like I go through the fence into the calf pens, but the window won’t let me get my head through. I can’t put my feet through first, ‘cause I gotta stand on the typewriter to reach the window. I look through the window again to see if Mom is in the kitchen yet. I try going through head first. I put my hands and arms through the window and then my head, but I can’t reach anything while my feet are still on the typewriter. I push on the window sill with my hands to try and get me outta there--just like when you’re taking off pants that’re too tight. Now, I’m hangin’ in the window, half in the kitchen and half out. When I get my hands on the cabinet, I just slither the rest of me through like that snake I saw in the milk barn yesterday. I make a big “thump” sound when I land on the cabinet. I just wait there to see if anyone comes to see what made that big noise.
Our house is always noisy, unless you’re tryin’ to be sneaky. Then it’s real quiet. The candy bars are always in the cabinet over the washer. This is where Mom keeps the Tupperwares she’s not usin’. I guess puttin’ candy bars in a Tupperware’s not really usin’ it. I move the stool over to the washer. This red stool wasn’t my fav’rit ‘cause I always had to sit on it when I got in trouble. Not when I did somethin’ bad ‘cause I didn’t always get caught, but just when I was in trouble. Mom would always pull the stool to where she was workin’ and make me sit there in front of her. Like I couldn’t sit on that stupid chair without her watchin’ me. Anyway, it has pull-out steps on the front so I don’t fall when I gotta climb on somethin’. As I step on the washer lid, it makes that hollow “boing” noise, so I just stand still for a real long time.
I don’t hear Mom coming, so I open the door real quiet and pull out the bowl with the candy bars. There’s a whole bunch of them ‘cause when Dad was a little boy, he didn’t get to have candy ‘cause they didn’t have any money. Now that he’s big, he eats candy all the time so Mom has to buy a lot. We can have candy ever’day, but you have to wait ‘til after dinner and you can just have one. In the bowl, there are my fav’rit kinds--Butterfinger and Baby Ruth and then there are other kinds I don’t like as well, but I could eat ‘em if there was nothing else. I sit there for a long time trying to decide which kind to have today and trying to figure which one my brother’ll eat so I’ll know what’ll be left tomorrow. I could choose a long shiny yellow wrapper or a red, white, and blue wrapper. Chewy candy or crunchy candy that sticks in my teeth. If Mom didn’t have that one-candy-a-day rule, I’d just eat both. Then, I remember that I’m by myself. Nobody’ll know. I won’t tell unless she says, “Did you eat a Baby Ruth and a Butterfinger?” She won’t know to ask if she doesn’t see the wrappers. I grab a Baby Ruth and a Butterfinger and put the rest of ‘em back. Mom should be comin’ soon. I wanna get some RC ‘cause I’ll get thirsty eatin’ my candy. She must be really busy.
I crawl back through the window and sit in the office and eat my candy. Mom still doesn’t come to see what I’m getting into. I go outside to play, but it’s too hot. I come back in the back door. It makes that squeakly noise and then slams shut. Mom used to fuss at me for lettin’ it slam. I yell, “Mom! Mo-o-o-m! Where are ya?” like I hadn’t just been in the house. She doesn’t answer. I check in her room.
There she is. Sittin’ on the floor, cross-legged like an Indian. She’s still dressed in her coveralls from milkin’ this mornin’ and she’s got an old, red ballcap of Dad’s that holds her hair back. She’s cryin’ and lookin’ at those old pictures. They’re the same ones she looks at all the time. Two little fat, bald boys in the bathtub. Two little boys ridin’ in the pony cart. Two little boys wearin’ hankies tied around their faces like bankrobbers holdin’ a little baby girl. She does this all the time since that day all the cars were parked in the highway and lots of people brought flowers to the house ‘cause my brother, Chris, went to live in heaven. Her eyes are all red and she’s cryin’ real hard. It makes me feel bad ‘cause I don’t know what to do. I pat her on the arm.
“It’s okay, Momma. Don’t cry. You don’t wanna be a crybaby or nobody’ll wanna play with you.”
This doesn’t help. Maybe she’s mad ‘cause I was bad and ate two candy bars. I don’t know how she knew ‘cause I was sure she would’ve smacked my bottom if I’d gotten caught. I don’t wanna make Momma cry.
“I’m sorry, Momma, I won’t eat two candy bars anymore.”
I hug her and pat her shoulder to make her stop crying. She doesn’t talk or hug me back. Just like I’m not here. She just sits there and looks at the pictures in her hands. The ones that don’t fit in her hands are spread out on the floor around her.
Then I know she doesn’t know that I’d eaten two candy bars. I just about got myself in trouble. She cares more about those stupid, ol’ pictures than me. She doesn’t act like she used to. She used to be busy all the time. She never sat in her room and cried. I better go get Dad ‘cause he fixes ever’thing that’s broke.
He’s workin’ in the shed. The shed is so big that Dad can park all his trucks and tractors in it. It doesn’t have lights, so it’s always kinda dark in there. Even in the day time. I get there and see him welding some stuff. I can’t get too close ‘cause I might get burned. I like to watch him weld ‘cause it makes pretty sparks fly ever’where. He looks like a monster in his welding suit. The helmet has green bugeyes so the light doesn’t hurt his eyes. A canvas apron keeps the sparks from burning holes in his clothes. He even has special gloves so he can hold the hot welder. They make his hands look big.
I get tired of waitin’ for him to get done, so I yell at him. I wanna tell him that Mom’s in the house, cryin’ and lookin’ at those old pictures in her bedroom and he better go check on her. He can’t hear me. He’s too busy.
I go to the porch to pet my dog. She’s old and not very pretty, but she’s mine. Somebody dumped her out and she come to our house. Dad and my brother, Kirk, were gonna shoot her, but I wouldn’t let ‘em. She needed me to take care of her. We sit on the porch and talk--she’s not busy. I tell her I could’ve just slammed in the door and eaten all of the candy bars. She could’ve had one, too. She loves candy. Mom wouldn’t’ve noticed. She had other things on her mind.
I take the wadded up candy wrappers out of my pocket to look at the pretty colors. I gotta put ‘em where Mom won’t find ‘em. It’s hot. It’s too much trouble. She isn’t gonna notice anyway. I drop the wadded candy wrappers by the porch. They slowly uncurl, just like worms you’re tryin’ to get on a fish hook. The breeze scoots ‘em across the patio and moves ‘em far away.