“There are SO many things I regret about last evening. . . . I made spaghetti in the microwave.”
“Mommy, I want breakfast!”
The sound barely registered; it became a raven’s cry in her nightmare. She rolled off the mattress and fell the six inches to the floor. Her hand landed in an ashtray. The raven pecked at her fingernails.
“Mommy!” Caleb was shaking her hand now. “I want breakfast!”
One eye opened. He was wearing shorts, covered in ketchup stains.
“Get it your fucking self. I’m tired.” Her eye closed.
A foot stomped. “I can’t!”
Both eyes open now. “Goddammit. Fine.” She reached for a bottle, tipping it over. Shards of crystal laid at her son’s feet. “Just give me a minute.”
He stepped–almost jumped back. “s’okay, Mom. I’ll get it myself.”
She grunted, her eyes closing. The raven returned, only now it was flying away. Towards the sun, like Icarus. Up it flew, higher and higher. And then a…crash?
She jolted awake. What she saw was worse than a nightmare. In slow motion. Caleb was falling backwards, off a chair. One arm was behind him, the other above, grasping a box of cereal. Frosted flakes surrounded him, as if they had exploded from his torso. Both he and the chair were nearly parallel to the ground. Her mind lurched, as if to rescue him. Her body laid still. And then came a crunch as his head slammed against the counter.
She sat beside the hospital bed, feet on her chair, hugging her knees. The doctor was talking. She couldn’t look at him. The floor was safe.
“You’re both extremely lucky, Ms. Butler. Caleb has a nasty laceration and a mild concussion, but the scans came back negative. He’s malnourished too, but…”
The doctor waited for a response. The IV beeped.
“Social Services will talk to you now.”
Footsteps approached. She saw knees, bended.
“Ms. Butler. Our goal is for you and your son to be together. However, we have concerns…”
“Anything,” she interrupted. She looked at her boy. Her sweet, beautiful boy. “I’ll do anything. Just help me, please.”
DG: This one sets up its premise early and then follows through. The mother is neglectful and pays the price. This is well-described and well-written, the only thing I wanted was one jolt of discovery in the story. SILVER
DK: I may not have been in the mood for quite such a tearjerker this time, or maybe something about this just felt off. I like the raven image, but I think the ending sentiment is incongruous with her initial reactions to the boy (I’m not saying that’s not realistic, just that it didn’t fit well in the context of this small space).
I once saw the first part of this story, more or less, minus the kid actually falling and hitting his head. Yup.
I slipped back down to second place, still in decent position for the playoffs. Just two weeks left!