KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Micro-Fiction: 361 words

Stop Looking at Me Like That

by Katey Schultz

Mom sets the wooden spoon down and looks at me like I have potential. The kitchen’s all pastries and batter, photos from holidays collaged across the refrigerator, plastic smiles of sports teams and relatives. It feels like they’re staring at me, the son who should have turned out better. Then Mom says, “I love you,” and I want to twist her freckled twig of an arm, holding her one scary inch off the floor and say: Look—this is all you get. I’m worthless and you can’t do anything to change that.

“Are you listening?” she asks. “I love you. We all do.”

I step toward her but stop short, forcing my hands into my letterman jacket. “Mom?” I say. “You’d never understand.”

She returns to her recipe. “What? Understand what?”

It’s easier when she’s not looking at me, so I go ahead and say it: “That I wish I was dead.”

That fast, she turns on me, the bowl of cake batter slipping from her grip. It shatters on the floor and Mom’s at my neck, wooden spoon pressed like a blade to the jugular. She holds the handle across my throat, pained face just inches from mine. A fantastic ringing swells in my ears like one thousand muscle cars at the starting line and for a moment, I can see what it would do to her if I were gone, how I’d be taking more than my own life. That’s when I realize I want nothing more than to live for whatever comes next.

Slowly, Mom lets go and I catch my breath. She checks the oven, adjusts her apron. I grab a sponge and crouch to wipe up the spilled batter, keeping an eye on that spoon, the way she keeps stirring and stirring. Her gaze could burn a hole through the linoleum but within moments she softens, joining me on the floor. She makes her next move so carefully, so deliberately, I will never forget it. First one hunk, then another: she places shards of the bowl into my palms, handing me back to myself one jagged piece at a time.

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