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Something Between Mother and Son

July 23, 2013

by Sean Michael, November 2012

Mr. Brunswick worked slavishly at the meat packing company, but it was only a paltry sum that he took home every two weeks. Mrs. Brunswick had been a poetess since prepubescent years; she wrote fervently to this day, but was having a harrowing time trying to make a full break into the notoriously difficult business of published author. The birth of a child 6 months ago exacerbated their financial struggles, but despite their impecuniousness, their house was a home and wealthy with love. They made it a stern point never to argue over money.

Now as they prepared for a night of celebrating their sacred bond of marriage, Mrs. Brunswick was beautiful in a deep purple dress that was modest yet sexy, clinging to her femininity when she moved. Her wavy blonde hair was pinned back, a few thick strands falling at random. A small amount of blush was applied to her cheeks, purple eyeshadow complimented her dress. She wore a black sports coat that matched her black flat-heel shoes. Mr. Brunswick wore creased and wrinkle-fee slacks, a snow-white dress shirt, penny loafers, and a trench coat.

The young couple stood over their infant son asleep in a crib, which sat near the door of their bedroom, scrutinizing his sleeping form with great pride, joy, and marvel. The child was recumbent on his stomach, his knees tucked to his waist, his bottom slightly raised like a stink bug, tiny fists clinched near his shoulders, a diminutive snore emanating from his nasal cavity. His cheeks were a healthy pink; when open, he watched the world with unspoken query through the lucid blue eyes of his mother.
“Looks like an angel,” Mrs. Brunswick observed. “I wonder what it is he dreams?”
“Probably of heaven, my dear.”

madonna-and-child-g“Kevin,” Mrs. Brunswick nearly shouted, “have you ever seen a more beautiful child in all your life?”

“Never Victoria. And you will never have seen a more cranky child if you wake him now.”

Mrs. Brunswick placed a delicate kiss upon the child’s cheek and her husband brushed his hand over his son’s nearly bald head hoping the hair that was there remained the jet black of his own. It seemed the only accoutrement the boy had inherited from him other than the snore.

“Come now, dear, lest we arrive at the restaurant too late to eat,” he extended his palm to receive his wife’s slender hand in his.
The 17-year-old neighbor girl was hired for 10 dollars to watch over the child for two hours. Before they departed, Victoria issued last minute instructions to her: “Don’t let him cry for too long, if he wakes, but let him cry a little, it’s good for his lungs and that he not become spoiled. There is a bottle of breast milk in the fridge and you can give it to him cold or heat it to a tepid temperature on the stove, whichever..”

“Come now, Victoria, the girl is a competent babysitter or else we would not have hired her. Right, Chelsea?”

“Yes, sir. Don’t worry Mrs. Brunswick, I will take excellent care of your son. Enjoy your anniversary tonight.”

The drive down Old Highway 99 was silent but for the sounds of Sade coming from the CD player. At Mario’s Homecooked Italian, they had the angel-hair pasta with herb sauce, stuffed meatballs and a glass of red vino each, which they sipped leisurely. Dessert was a slice of lemon cake. As they ate, Kevin asked his wife how her writing was coming along.

“Well, my dear. It is coming along well.”

“Victoria…” He waited for her to look up at him. “Your words tell one story while your tone conveys another.”

“Oh, it’s nothing! I received about the hundredth rejection slip yesterday, but I was sure that this poem would be accepted…” She looked pensive. “The magazine explained to me that the piece was not what they were looking for, thanked me for keeping them in mind, and told me ‘Please do try us again in the future.’ I thought that sounded promising, but then, maybe that is what they say apropos all declined submissions.”

“Which poem was it?” Kevin asked.

“One that I wrote when pregnant. At the bay, I observed a young mother ushering her two children down a dock and onto a boat. Her expression was one of unalloyed happiness watching her children bounce around with laughter. I so looked forward to that feeling of pureness and innocence I knew I would experience watching our child at play. Then our son began to move within my womb, and I could almost hear his voice, saying he looked forward to the day just as much as I!

“Well, I wrote about the scene on the dock and boat, and speculated about how the woman must have felt later watching them as they slept. Did she ponder the mysteries of their futures and her own, as I’d imagined myself doing and have now done? Did she wonder of their dreams, the budding hopes and desires at the bosoms of their souls? How she would nurture these dreams and hopes and desires so that one day they would bloom into reality? I thought that it was a lovely poem…”

“It sounds so, dear, you write beautiful and profound poetry. You have been published before; you will be published again. You will find much to write about as our son begins to speak and walk, and eventually become a man.”

“Yes, I guess I ought to pick up my abeyant pen. Actually, I had an idea for a short novel last night. It came to me in a dream, a nightmare really…”

“Write it down, Victoria! Sell millions of copies, make millions of dollars, become critically acclaimed, and move us to a mansion in the hills where we will be able to escape the enthusiastic fans who will be attempting to knock down the door of our tiny apartment to parade you through the streets as a queen and savior of literature, for your words glow on the page, fill every heart with wonder and passion…”

Kevin had become a bit mad in his enthusiasm, his voice had risen and attracted a few pairs of eyes from other tables. He and Victoria began to giggle uncontrollably.

“Oh, I will try to do all of the above,” Victoria said. “But, no, the idea was a bust. A dream I wish I’d never had really. But it was so vivid, so realistic, for a moment I thought the notion of writing it down was a sound one just for the descriptions it would inspire: the flames licked and crackled and devoured…” Victoria cringed. “But, no, it would be a book with a horrid ending and a story of no literary value. My first novel will be inspired, a serious work to stand the tests of time. Likely I won’t even know it’s greatness until I’m slapped in the face with it.”

“I’ve always loved your writing,” Kevin told his wife, “and all of your work will stand the tests of time with me.”

“Thank you.”

“I did not marry you for your beauty nor for your your titillating body, but for your brains. I believe all that stuff you write will one day make us rich, and I will finally have the popularity I was never able to have in high school, because I am married to the sexiest, most brilliant writer alive. So, take that, Mr. Postman!”

“You are such a silly man sometimes, Kevin, and that’s why I married you. Not for your lean, muscular body and dark, mysterious eyes, though I really enjoy those too.”

“Absolutely, we have it all. As my man Al Green says, ‘Love and Happiness.’”

They shared another euphoric deluge of laughter, and as it ebbed, Vicotria asked her husband if he had spoken to his boss about a possible raise.

“Yes,” Kevin said with a sigh. “He said that at the end of the year he might be able to increase my pay by a quarter. I’ve begun looking for a part-time job or another job all together if it pays better.”

“We will survive, and I’m sure that things will get better for us financially soon, my love, don’t appear so low in spirit.”

“They will get better as soon as you write that novel!” Kevin said with a smile.

“When our son is a bit older, if we can convince Chelsea to watch him for a reasonable price, I will look for part-time work.”

“Maybe,” Kevin said, “but do not consider such things now. You just write, little lady, write, write write!” He checked his watch.

“We had better start getting back before Chelsea decides to charge us overtime; that might break our bank.”
Kevin grabbed his coat and hurried around to his wife, retrieving her coat and draping it over her shoulders. “You go on ahead, honey, I will take care of the check and catch right up with you. Start the car and warm it up,” he handed Victoria the keys.
Through one of the windows in the restaurant Kevin descried his wife climbing into the car, leaning over the seat, turning the key in the ignition. He scrawled quickly on the back of the bill — IOU. He made briskly for the exit. He had not paid the check.
As he backed out of the parking lot, Victoria said, “Honey wasn’t that our waiter? I think he’s trying to get your attention.”
“He’s a smoker, probably taking a break.” Great , now I’m a thief and a liar, Kevin thought as he whipped the car around so that the license plate was no longer visible and sped off.

“Slow down, Kevin!”

“Sorry, Victoria.”

“What is the matter?”

“Nothing. My foot just fell a little heavy on the accelerator,” he lied and simultaneously promised himself that he never would again. He was thinking how oddly simple it had been to steal, then follow up with three successive lies. He repeated his promise to never do it again. But how would he tell Victoria that the same time he had gone to ask his boss for a raise that he had been laid off. He hadn’t even considered that lie he’d told already at the table of their anniversary dinner! He was thinking about how his world was crashing down and that this was only the beginning of a larger catastrophe. What if the waiter had gotten his plate numbers? He had not considered that before. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Eventually, Victoria would discover his lies, she was nobody’s fool. She would see through this facade. He felt it cracking; how long could he pretend to be who he was yesterday–employed, happy, secure, and honest? No, he was a thief and a liar now! What would be next, a bank robbery?
To his relief Victoria’s voice sluiced through his thoughts. “Honey, can I tell you about the dream that I had last night?”

“Sure. Please do, my love,” Mr. Brunswick said as he drove onto Old Highway 99 to return home.

“It was horrible and I don’t know why I ever considered creating a novel out of it. It’s bothering me now, because the dream was about us…”

“What happened?”

“It’s so strange! We…”
* * * *
Big Joe was on a tight schedule, over-worked , and operating on only a modicum of sleep. He had caught himself dozing behind the wheel of the big rig about 50 miles back and pulled over for a catnap, after which he had stopped off at a convenience store for a black coffee and a packet of yellow jackets. The pill’s package promised to give him 2 to 5 hours of energy. He could not afford to fall too far behind on his schedule, so he downed the pills with the coffee and pressed on down Old Highway 99. He told himself that after clearing this zone of the map he would be back ahead of schedule and would pull over to catch a couple of hours of good sleep in the cab of the huge rig…
* * * *

The baby awoke and began to scream. As Mrs. Brunswick had instructed, Chelsea allowed him to cry for a moment, then entered the bedroom to console the child. She lifted him from the crib and cradled him against her bosom, rocking gently. “Hush-a-bye baby, don’t you cry, shhh, shhh, shhh, mommy and daddy will be home in no time,” she sang softly. But he would not quit crying: Chelsea tried the bottle, first cold, then warm. But he would not quit crying…

* * * *

“…were killed in a house fire,” Victoria said.

“What?”

“Yes, and the entire time I was burning I could only hear the baby screaming.”

“That’s a horrible dream!” Mr. Brunswick exclaimed.

“Yes, yes, I know. However, his screams were repelling the flames from his body, like some sort of forcefield.”

“Well, you’ve heard the boy holler. It’s no surprise that phenomenon played into your dream. I think the boy could repel lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

“He crawled from the house and sat in the front yard, his scream like a siren, a forcefield pushing the flames back from him.”

“Sort of like a reverse-Carrie! You were going to write about this?”
 “Yes, but I’m not finished yet. In my dream I watched him grow up without us, being sent through myriad orphanages and foster homes.”

“Sort of like a reverse Carrie meets Little Orphan Annie, then.”

Suddenly Victoria winced and put her fingers in her ears…

* * * *

As Big Joe drove down Old Highway 99, he decided that he was immune to the effects of coffee, he’d been drinking so much of it for so long, and that the makers of yellow jackets should be sued for false advertising. They were probably nothing more than sugar or sodium or something in a capsule.

He felt his mind go completely blank for a minute. He was exhausted. He needed rest. His eyelids were heavy as bricks. They began to close. He began to fade. He caught himself. He opened his eyes. Just need to clear this zone of the map. Old highway 99 is only about 100 miles long…

* * * *

No matter chelsea’s endeavors, the child would not cease his screaming. The cry was becoming more agitated and shrill by the moment. “Please stop,” she whispered. She sung every nursery rhyme she knew, and made up a few of her own. Put her finger between his gums to bite in case he was teething. Nothing worked. The baby continued to scream. Finally, she placed the child back into his crib and turned on the radio. But it was not enough to cancel out the boy’s piercing cries…

* * * *

A stabbing scream had assailed her eardrums and no matter how deep she stuffed her fingers into her ears, it would not cease. Then she realized that the scream was in her head. My God, am I mad? she thought, but it hurt too much to think. The scream, the scream, THE SCREAM! It felt like it was spreading throughout her body, taking over her body.

“Victoria,” Kevin called, “Victoria!” But it was as if she were deaf. “Victoria, cut it out now. I wasn’t making fun. Hey, it was a great idea for a novel, maybe needs some polishing…”

It was no longer just a scream. The scream conjured up visions in Mrs. Brunswick’s mind. She saw bright lights, twisted metal,fire, Kevin, herself…burning! Her child, her dearly beloved child screaming.

“Pull the car to the side of the road,” Victoria said wearily.

“Jesus Christ! Victoria, what is going on?” Kevin was not watching the road; he was watching his wife.
A blinding light suffused through the windshield. Without thought, with the last of her strength, Victoria grabbed the wheel from her husband and pushed it hard to the left.

The big rig slammed into the back of the car, Kevin slammed on the brakes, the vehicle spun back to the right, barely missing being crunched beneath the rig, skidding in a wide circle across the empty highway…

* * * *

Big Joe awoke at the moment of impact. He hadn’t even realized it when he dozed off. He slammed his foot down on the pedal of the big rig, the brakes locked, the tires smoked, the truck skidded. He wondered briefly who he had hit and were they okay? He tried to steer the rig away from the guard rail. There was no way that small piece of metal would catch his rig and prevent him from going over. It was too late, and he was going too fast.
The truck hit the guard rail, plowing through; the cab of the truck was momentarily suspended in mid-air, then it went down. Big Joe no longer had control of the massive vehicle, he was bouncing around the cab.
The cargo trailer followed the cab and propelled the rig over the rail. The big rig rushed down the cliff, twisting and turning like a giant, restless beast. The engine caught fire and when the rig reached the bottom of the cliff, smashing one last time into the rocks, it burst into flames with a great explosion. The cargo was splayed in heaps down the side of the cliff, around the rig. Big Joe was dead from a severed spine before the flames swallowed his body.

* * * *

Chelsea went in to check on the baby. He was still crying but not as loudly, not as maddeningly. As she peeked over the crib the child ceased crying for one moment and stared at her. What Chelsea saw in the boy’s blue eyes was ineffable, something so powerful and profound that she involuntarily took a step back. The child began to weep softly.
Chelsea went out into the living room and retrieved her cell phone from her handbag. She looked at the time. “Mr. and Mr. Brunswick should be home soon,” She said to herself.

* * * *

As the car spun, Kevin began to utter his sins. “I’m a liar; I’m a thief. I’m Sorry. I love my wife, and I’ve never cheated on her; I love my child, and I’ll raise him right.”
Victoria was only half aware of her husband’s final prayer for salvation and simultaneous plea to live. The screaming that had so vexed her ears began to ebb and was replaced by a ringing.
The car completed its spin and banked off the rocks on the other side of the highway. For a moment, the only sound in the car was that of the passenger’s heavy breathing.

“I’m sorry honey,” Kevin finally uttered.

“It wasn’t your fault,” his wife answered.

“It was, I…”

“The other driver!” Victoria exclaimed. “We have to do something! Go, go, see if he needs help!”
Kevin moved in a dilatory manner from the car, and as Victoria turned to watch her husband walk to the edge of the cliff, she saw that there was no other driver. She searched through the car for her handbag and found her cell phone. She dialed Chelsea and, without giving the baby sitter a chance to speak, told her that they had been in an accident; she thought they were okay, but she needed to call 911; they would be home as soon as possible! She then hung up and dialed 911.

* * * *

It wasn’t until early morning that Mr. and Mrs. Brunswick returned home. Mr. Brunswick had not spoken a word. He had just stood there at the edge of the precipice and watched the fire consume the big rig until the ambulance arrived. Now, they were home, and he promised himself that later, after they got some rest, he would speak to his wife. He would tell her everything: that he had been laid off of work yesterday on their anniversary; that he had not wanted to let her down so he’d thieved the restaurant for a meal, but that he’d always intended to pay them back; that he hadn’t meant to lie to her, but he’d been abashed.
When they walked into the bedroom, Kevin fell fully clothed onto the bed and went directly to sleep. Victoria was tired enough to do the same, but as she entered the room, she heard a noise emanate from the crib. She saw her son wide awake, lifting his hands and letting them fall, lifting his hands and letting them fall. A large grin spread across his face when he saw his mother, and she lifted him out of the crib.

Just then, Chelsea peeked her head in and said, “Don’t worry about the pay, Mrs. Brunswick. Hope you’re okay. I have to go now.”

“Okay, Chelsea, thank you,” Victoria said, while staring into her son’s big, beautiful blue eyes. The boy reached out and placed his finger on her nose. He made a sound. It sounded like he was trying to say something. It sounded like, “Ma.. Ma…” She caressed her hand across the child’s brow, then pulled him close against her bosom and said, “Yeah, that’s me. I’m your Mama.” A tear glistened on her eyelid, then fell and made its dilatory trek down her cheek. It was then that she knew, and it was something that nobody else could have known or understood. It was something between mother and son.

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From → BLOG, Short Stories

4 Comments
  1. Wow, what a rush! 🙂

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    • I’m glad you liked the story! This one was declined. It seems an impossible task to get published though I keep trying. I was wondering if anybody would like my writing so good to hear from you.

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      • Yes, I was really into it like sitting on the edge of my seat. I especially enjoyed the back and forth from the couple to the truck driver and of course the baby’s connection to the mom. Have you considered adding more to the story to make it longer? More details about the hub’s job, more incidents before the climax, etc., and you could either end it the way you did or continue on to a different ending. I enjoy your posts and songs, but this one really got me. Keep writing and don’t stop trying…publishers will have no choice but to accept your work sooner or later because you are a true talent. 🙂

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      • When it comes to my short stories, I often hear that the reader would have liked more. I remember something Stephen King said: A short story is like a toss in the the dark from a stranger… a novel is like a long love affair. I do sometimes think about going back and writing a second, longer, more detailed version of some of my stories, but I never do. Maybe one day I will. But, in all truth, I probably won’t, even though I have considered it. Who knows? Thank you for your comments.

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