A brief interlude from political theatrics to bring you more stupid art. I’ve got about ten of these things on backlog, but I won’t promise to post them all. From a few weeks ago, I give you an attempt at awkward family dynamics, in 1,000 words.
Prompt: Home, Metaphorically Family
The house could have been made of plastic sandals, tangled strings and bloated toes. The smell of cigarettes had attacked the building—a square-shouldered concrete-blocked structure—like some sort of disease. The fringes of the carpets had turned decrepit, and big brown drops had formed on the ceiling in gelatinous stalactites caving the interior further in upon itself in a singular incandescent glow—uncomfortably luminescent like mustard on a May morning. Even the teddy bear that used to be white is yellow-fringed now. Gleaning pleasure from corruption, he smiles ghoulishly in his mauve bow tie from his throne on the overstuffed, floral patterned couch.
Above the television is the head of an elk, its gaze bound in glass but casting a protective quality over the small living room. The living room is connected through to the smaller, linoleum-floored kitchen. There is breakfast bar with no stools, a round pine table with four chairs, and a green kitchen door with a window in it. Outside is Southeastern Idaho, where the Snake River plain makes a broad and open swale of pungent volcanic rock, and in winter, a rush of frozen grey air and rust-tinted slush.
Martha collects amber-colored glass bowls and souvenir ashtrays from capital cities. Bill collects coins and used bullets. Thanks to this, there are little round things full of other little round things dotting every corner, every tabletop of this secretly roach-bound, smoke-painted edifice. And yet there’s a precarious order to it, the clutter of this humble abode.
The son enters through the kitchen door. He stands for a moment above the table, fighting the illusion of falling as the salt and peppershakers sit plastically before him. The bird clock on the wall makes the sound of a woodland swallow: it is two o’clock, afternoon on a Sunday.
“Welcome home,” Martha’s cheeks are rounded by the TV glow as she sits smoking, watching a rerun of Wheel of Fortune with the mute button on. A large ambereyed cat sits on the back of her chair; its tale switches metronomically.
“Not gonna ask were you where last night, son.” She doesn’t look away from the television. Her face is large and reddened with swollen capillaries; her hair is brown and motionless in tight curls about her ears. “I’m just hopin’ it wasn’t anywhere making trouble.”
The son makes no answer. Instead he pulls a gallon of whole milk out of a plastic shopping bag and places it with a solid thud on the kitchen table. He opens the refrigerator and stoops down, sticking his head inside. There’s leftover pasta. A can of refried beans, halfway eaten. A tray of lime Jell-o and a high-fat tract of ground beef resting plastic-wrapped in a blue Styrofoam tray. He sets the gallon of milk on the
“You know me, mom.” He says at last. “I don’t make trouble.”
He opens the freezer; it’s stuffed with cuts of venison wrapped in white paper.
“That’s not what Mrs. Jakowsky says,” Martha reaches for the remote and flips off the TV. It was true though. He’d never been in any real sort of trouble at school, save for playing hooky every now and again, but that’s just what normal kinds of teenagers do now and again anyways, being teenagers and all. He’d just been disappearing a bit more often than normal these days, and of course since Martha had started to worry, folks had started to talk.
“Well, she doesn’t know anything.” He mumbles.
“That’s just pure disrespect right there.” Martha raised her voice a little bit. The cat jumps down from the back of her chair and trots down the hallway.
“Alright well maybe she knows some things, but she doesn’t know everything.” Martha can’t seem to come up with a way to counter that one. Instead, she taps the ashes from her cigarette into the ashtray on the table next to her. The ashtray reads: Denver, Colorado.
“You just go off and I don’t know what you’re doing.”
“You don’t need to worry about me, mom”
“I know, honey, you can take care of yourself now. And I ‘spose it just isn’t my problem anymore.” Martha sighs. Now he doesn’t answer so instead walks into the living room and sits down on the couch, all but ignoring the bow-tied and grinning teddy perched beside him.
In a moment, kitchen door beats open again. A German Shepard scuttles in around heavy boot steps heralding the entrance of a tall and bellied fellow with a thick gray mustache. It’s Bill.
“Jesus, the cold is here. I was even afraid for a second there that the car wouldn’t start. I see you decided to join us again, Mitchell.” He glances over at his son, who staring foal-eyed down the hall where the German Shepard ran off in the same direction as the cat. Bill pulls a gallon of whole milk out of a plastic shopping bag and places it on the kitchen table with a solid thud. Opening the fridge he discovers the other gallon of milk resting complacently on the center shelf. His mouth sours for a moment, but then he shrugs and simply places his milk next to the one that’s already, inexplicably there.
“Car wouldn’t start? Is that what you said?” Martha sounds worried.
“No, no honey it started. It was just I was afraid it wouldn’t.” Bill pulls the car keys out of his pocket and sets them in a repurposed ashtray, reading Annapolis, Maryland resting on the counter.
“I heard from Mr. Wienberger down at Lonnie’s that there was some ruckus created out on the Olson’s property last night.” He walks heavily into the living room and plops down on the other side of the couch, creaking under his weight. His legs splay out before him and he stretches him arms up behind his head.
“Some sorta small natural gas line explosion, not big enough to do any damage and thank God far enough away from anyone or anything, but he’ll have to replace the tank, that’s for sure. May be heating his house on wood for a few days.”
Martha shoots a daggered glance at her son, but it’s no good: his face, at least, is the very picture of innocence.
“God forbid anyone be without heat or electric in this weather.” Bill muses, his eyes closing, his head tilting back and yawning enormously.