When my mother was eight years old, she climbed to the top of her neighbor’s greenhouse and leapt, convinced she would fly. Her body crashed through the glass and she landed on top of a table filled with bright yellow daffodils.
Her right calf was badly cut, and after her neighbors rushed out to help her off the crumpled flowers and pick the glass out of her hair, they wrapped her leg, called her mom, and sent her home.
My mom limped across the street and bled up the stairs of her house in Hull, Massachusetts. Her mom attended to her wound and when her father returned from work, he pointed out all the blood still on the porch and said do you know how this makes us look?
At night, my mother lay motionless in her bed and listened very carefully. Sometimes she was alone. Sometimes one or all of her sisters were with her. They waited to hear the stairs. They waited to see who their father would choose.
When my mom was 15, she sat in the back of her parents’ Oldsmobile as her mother drove. They were going to the pharmacy to buy pantyhose. About halfway there, her mom pulled over on the side of the road, blinker ticking. She turned around and faced my mother.
“You’re a little whore,” she said, and slapped my mother across the face.
She then turned back around, checked her mirrors, and continued to the pharmacy where they were having a sale on Hanes, the leading brand of pantyhose in 1963.
My mother met my father in Boston when she was 17. They were both attending a small communications school. My father had just returned from Korea after two years in the Army. He had been a journalist with Stars and Stripes and once blundered into the DMZ, almost causing an international incident. He now wanted to be a disc jockey. My mother dreamt of becoming an actress. My mom, who still lived at home, was soon pregnant. When my father asked if they should get married, move up to New Hampshire to be closer to his family, my mother smiled.
After my brother was born, my mother went to see the doctor for her first postpartum checkup. The doctor said she seemed healthy, asked how the baby was. My mother said he was good. “Great,” he said. “Because you’re pregnant again.” And I was born the following October.
When I was 18, my mother remarried. That Thanksgiving, she invited her father over. She had also invited her sisters; they were waiting for him. We had a kind of dinner. Afterward, I snuck beers and drank them in my bedroom with my brother, who was on leave from the Marines. We listened very carefully. We heard many voices rise into a single knot in the dining room. As I looked out my bedroom window and watched my grandfather drive away, I understood I would never see him again.
Weeks later, setting up the Christmas tree, my mother spoke to my stepfather, bewildered, and asked, “Why do I still love him?”
It is April, and I am visiting my mother. We stand on her porch and look at what flowers are coming in this year, and those which remain stubborn. She leads me around the yard and then to the fence, points out a long row of daffodils. I ask if she planted those bulbs in September. She laughs. She sounds young. She gets down on one knee and touches a petal. “These,” she says. “These have always been my favorite.”
Christopher Locke’s flash has appeared in such magazines as SmokeLong Quarterly, Jellyfish Review, Barrelhouse, Flash Fiction Magazine, New Flash Fiction Review, JMWW, Maudlin House, Moon Park Review, and elsewhere. He won the Black River Chapbook Award (Black Lawrence Press—2020) for his collection of short stories 25 Trumbulls Road. Locke received the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award, and state grants in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. He has been nominated for Best of the Net and The Pushcart Prize many times.
Conflicting emotions in this one.
It’s so hard to suffer abuse and keep it inside with lots of guilt.