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Sunday. The Lord’s Day. Or at least it used to be.
Funny thing is that my mother used to be just like Fay. She went to church every single Sunday and dragged us along with her. She’d slip into some ugly slacks and a thick, vibrant sweater that could easily blind an unsuspecting person. She’d sit in the pew staring intently at my father and laughed whenever he’d make a dull joke in the homily. She would harshly “Shhsh” us whenever we talked during the whole hour of Hell. When I was really little and Nadine was 6 she would bring gummy bears in her pocket and share them with me when we would sneak out of the mass to ‘go to the bathroom’. Anyways, after church Mom would make us go into the grocery store with her and pick out dinner for that night. It always seemed like it was chicken for some reason. But after that she would drive back home in the deep green minivan the church had provided us, I hated that thing ever since I first saw it.
But I guess all of this is beside the point. Sundays at my mom’s house now consist of her getting inebriated by 2:00pm and picking fights with us for no reason. Then watching depressing movies in which she falls asleep half way into them. She’ll fall asleep sitting straight up too, with her chin sunk deep into her collarbone and then proceeding to snore like a banshee. It’s kind of like the game don’t wake Daddy, except for Daddy is a drunken mother who’s down for the count. When she breathes she gives off a distinct smell of vodka, cigarette smoke and cheese munchies. Her cheeks are always rosy red and shiny from facial oils. Even when she gets out of the shower she looks dirty, it might be the hair, I really don’t know how she does it.
But this morning was different, my mother was missing. She wasn’t in her room and she wasn’t asleep on the floor. What a whore! I bet she spent the night at that grungy construction worker’s house, again.
“Where’s Mom?” Curtis asked me.
“I dunno,” I shrugged.
“Did she go to Gary’s house again?”
Gary was the construction worker who once attempted to choke Betsy when she wouldn’t stop crying. My mother’s selection in men had varied through the past year. From smelly river rats to the fat loser mailman named Paddy and onto many more sad excuses of suitors.
“Go put on some deodorant, you smell like a crotch.”
“Okay.” Curtis smiled.
Damn that Mexican puberty.
I plopped down on the couch next to Francis who was blatantly still pissed at me for outing him the day before. He was watching My Super Sweet Sixteen, naturally.
“Just because I’m watching this, doesn’t mean I’m gay,” Francis said to the TV.
“I know,” I said.
“Cause I just like the music.”
“I know.” I didn’t buy it, but I felt bad from yesterday.
“Good,” he said proudly.
The doorknob twisted and I heard keys jingling.
“Ugh” I heard my mother moan out of frustration.
More jingling and then a body slam into the door.
“Can someone let me in!?” Pam yelled hoarsely.
I rolled my eyes and got off the couch to let my mother into her own house, because she was too smashed to unlock the door to her own home. What the Hell did she do when we weren’t there, sleep on the lawn?
I opened the door and looked at my mother who almost tripped while stepping into the house.
“Where were you?” I asked angrily.
“I got a surprise!” She smiled sideways.
“What, you’ve got liver cancer?”
“No!” She playfully hit me, I wasn’t amused, “I listened yesterday, and I know I’m not good sometimes so I got you kids a present.”
“Oh great,” I said unenthusiastically.
“A present!?” Curtis yelled, “where?”
“Hold on honey oats it’s right outside, let mommy get it.”
My mother tip-toed out of the house and walked back into the house holding a rope with a sickly creature attached to it. It was a dog. A black Labrador with missing hair and a tumor the size of Jupiter on its back.
HOLY SHIT, YOU’VE GOT TO KIDDING ME.
“What is it?” Francis asked disgusted.
“It’s a puppy dog!” Mother said happily.
“Is this a joke?” I said looking around for anything to make sense of this situation.
“What’s his name!?” Curtis yelled running to kneel in front of the dog.
Curtis reached to touch the dog as I immediately grabbed his hand.
“Don’t touch that thing, who knows where it’s been,” I told him.
My mother had ventured over to the kitchen and lit a cigarette.
“Hey! You can touch the dog sweetie, ignore her,” my mother called to Curtis.
The dog smelled like piss and alcohol. Ewe. I didn’t even want to know where she had discovered this dog.
“What’s his name!?” Curtis yelled again while carefully petting the hair left on the canine.
“Hmm, I don’t know.” My mother let out a puff of cigarette smoke and stared at it, “Smokey?”
Oh my lord, she just named that dog after her exhaled cigarette smoke, how fucking trashy.
“Um, mom what’s that?” Betsy appeared out of nowhere and pointed to the dog.
“It’s Smokey!” Curtis barked out.
“What’s a Smokey?” Betsy asked.
“It’s a dying dog mother insisted on bringing to our house from God knows where,” I answered.
“It’s bald.” Betsy pointed out.
“Oh, I know.”
“Where’d you get it from, mom?” Francis asked.
“I found him!” Pam stated excitedly.
“Where, Hell?” I said with a sarcastic undertone.
“Not funny,” Betsy said with her arms crossed.
“No, for your information I found him on the side of the road, he was tied to a tree, I saved him,” my mom alleged.
“Are you sure he wasn’t in someone’s yard, and you stole him?” Francis asked.
“No! I saved him, I told you, jeeze this generation’s kids don’t appreciate anything anymore.”
“I’m sorry I don’t appreciate you giving us a smelly dog that’s going to die in a month,” I answered.
“Don’t talk like that Lillian,” Pam scolded me and she took a drag from her cigarette.
“Mom, what’s this?” Curtis asked while poking Smokey’s tumor.
“Oh my God, Curtis don’t touch that!” I yelled as I yanked him away from Smokey.
“He’s fine,” my mom said lazily.
I glared at my mother and then looked at Curtis, “go wash your hands now.”
“Okay,” Curtis said as he skipped away.
Fuming, I walked over to my mother who was lounging in the kitchen.
“Why in God’s name would you bring that nasty dog into our home?” I asked.
“My gosh Lily, I was just being nice, every family needs a dog, plus he’s good for protection.”
“What is he going to do, rub the burglars with his tumor?”
“Look, stop being snotty and appreciate my efforts to be a good mom.”
“Whatever, bringing home a decrepit dog does not make you a good mom.”
“I saw him when I was driving home and thought you guys would like him, that’s a good mother if I ever heard of one.”
“Driving home from where, mother?”
“Um, the, uh store,” she hesitated.
She looked away, “No, I uh—”
“Exactly,” I looked her straight in her bloodshot eyes, “you’re pathetic.”
I walked out of the kitchen shaking my head. I felt like the roles of mother and daughter had been switched. She got to go out late and be with people I didn’t like or trust and then I had to punish her for it. Weekend after weekend she’d disappoint me more, with her drinking and dating. And every weekend I hoped that when she greeted us at the door, she would be back to how she used to be. I wanted that old mom back, even if she was dull and strict, I wanted it. I missed having structure in my life, I missed feeling safe, and I missed my mother.
Oh Jesus, where’s a good time machine when you need one?