Hard Work by Patricia Farrell
He thinks he is now in charge. The pink-tinged shower water was a sign he had worked hard that day. Preparation was so necessary. He carefully laid the clothes out before the shower. The crisp white shirt, new tie, and the carefully ironed undershirt and shorts are on the bed. The suit hangs in front of the closet.
As he showers, he recalls the rough push on the bed. Today has been different from the previous 20 years. One activity reminds him of that aggressive push on the bed to shake him awake. His mother is unaware; he had a different day in mind.
The yells from the kitchen had fallen on ears that were immune to emotion. Today is his day, not hers, as it had been. His old-fashioned bed she refused to replace had been perfect.
Tossing the mattress reveals the wooden slats, thick and robust, pulled out quickly. No rounded edges and that was a bit uncomfortable in his hand. But they were sturdy and would do the job well.
The stairs remind him how she had refused to have a carpenter put a railing on the cellar steps. Those steps were dangerous.
But she refused to pay for a handrail. It had been the day he asked if he could have money to buy some candy and comic books.
Her gruff voice played in his ears.
"Look, you scared Peaches!" What had he done to scare the bird? Nothing.
"Now, now, baby, mommy will give you a big cracker, and then you can take a bath. Would you like that, darlin'?" She stroked the bird's head, caressing it like a child. He wondered what it would be like to be so loved.
"Why pay good money when no one sees that rail? It's nonsense. We've done without it all these years, and we can do without it now." Always penny-pinching.
"And besides a railing, you want candy and comics! All it does is rot your teeth and your mind. Get that idea out of your head, young man.” A familiar scowl shows.
"Where do you think I get the money? What do you do all day long? I go out and do hard work. Hard work, you hear me? I don't sit around, washing my hands, reading comics all day long. I do hard work!"
It had been the same with the comic book she'd thrown out. "Nonsense, you spend my hard-earned money on nonsense. Look at this nonsense!"
She tore the comic and threw it into the can outside the kitchen door. Slamming the cover, she looked up at her son with an ugly sneer on her face. But that wasn't today. Today had been different.
Her yelling echoed in his ears as though she were saying them now, but, of course, she couldn't.
As he finished washing the suds off, he replayed the actions in his mind.
Standing in the kitchen, the mother never expected it. Half-turned, her mouth open to fling another nasty comment at him, the slat hit her squarely at the corner of her right eye. He'd seen it in a comic book and knew it was a death blow.
She stood upright, staring at him for a moment, and then he gave one push with his foot. An open cellar door, a quick push, and it was over. He hadn't thought it would be so easy.
The bird was the problem with that squawking and all the feathers flying. Even in swinging the bird around his head, he was careful. It never hit him, just the walls. Why were feathers so sticky? Those damn things were all between his fingers.
He noticed he hadn't cleaned them adequately, looking down at his hands. It was so sticky. And it didn't come off easily. You had to be so careful that you didn't get it on your clothes. No one wants to see somebody in blood-stained clothes.
After the shower, the house was quiet. There was only the sound of the occasional floorboard under his foot as he walked into the kitchen. Standing at the top of the cellar stairs looking down, he could see a bit of an apron and a foot turned in an odd direction.
Enough. Time to get dressed. He makes the phone call and knows they will be here soon.
P. A. Farrell is a freelance writer/psychologist, author of self-help books (McGraw-Hill and Demos Health, and KDP), writes for multiple Medium publications, has a Substack (https://drfarrell22.substack.com/), a website (drfarrell.net), a Twitter account (@drpatfarrell) and has been an associate editor for trade journals (PW) and one newspaper syndicate. Previously, she has had extensive experience in the field of mental health, working in psychiatric research, community mental health, psychiatric inpatient units, and has taught at the doctoral level at two universities.
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