Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Weekend Smell

I try hiding under the kitchen table - that's where I always go when the big people are visiting because they can't see me, but I can see their shoes and pretend like there's nobody but a bunch of feet over for supper. The tablecloth is red like Santa, and it hangs so low that it piles up on the chairs and makes a secret hiding place. Except today when I crawl under the tablecloth, I see a furry monster in the corner by mommy's chair and I stop moving so it won’t see me and jump out from the corner and onto my face. My cousin Charles told me if you're real still, the monsters don't see you and they leave you alone, but if you turn and run away, they chase right after you and bite you on the heels. So I crouch real still, half under the table cloth until I see that the monster in the corner is just a dust fluffy. Then I take a big breath because my knees are shaking and I crawl the rest of the way under the table.


But I am still scared because the dust fluffy shouldn't be there at all. Mommy always sweeps them up because she says that women worth their britches never let dust and filth into their house, and she always sticks her nose up in the air and sniffs when she says it, so that's how I know she is serious as a heart attack. She says that sometimes, serious as a heart attack, and she says that's as serious as it gets. Mommy doesn't let filth like a dust fluffy into her house, so that's why I’m still scared even after I see it isn’t a monster at all.


I crawl out from under the table and grandma sees me and says I better keep my pants clean because we got company today, and she looks real serious as a heart attack, so I sit on the stool by the back door instead of crawling under the towels in the pantry. Big people come into the kitchen talking soft and carrying dishes, then they go back out of the kitchen carrying trays full of food. I’ve never seen so much food or so many strangers before, and most of them are women that stop murmuring if they see me sitting on the stool and come over to pat my head and tell me I’m a good boy. They're all wearing black dresses and some of them have on funny hats with nets like they might be going fishing later, except I’ve never seen women fish before and I don't think you're allowed to wear a skirt in grandpa’s boat.


Mommy doesn't come down from her room even though we have company. I say to grandma it’s not fair I have to come down and I have to keep my pants clean when mommy gets to stay in her bathrobe and smoke cigarettes at her bedroom window and stare out at the cars on the street. I asked grandma why she doesn't come down to say hello to the company, and grandma says she can't blame her none for wishing to avoid all the whores come to claim a piece of what never belonged to them. I ask her what's a whore and she tells me I shouldn't talk that way or I’ll get smacked and to stay out from under the table or I’ll get my knees all dirty.


Grandma says I have to be polite and makes me go into the dining room where all the big people I don't know are standing with plastic cups and napkins and they don't see me. I decide to sit on the couch because maybe someone will turn on cartoons for me to watch, but when I get into the living room, I see the couch is all full of women in black dresses. One of them has bright red lips and she sees me and says, "You must be Lewis, come and sit on my lap". I don't want to sit on the woman's lap, so I stay put and notice that the room smells different than it usually does when I watch cartoons on the couch. It smells like my parents room sometimes smells in the morning when I crawl into their big bed in the dark and mommy complains that I’m squashing her, but instead of telling me to go back to my room, she snuggles me closer and falls back asleep instead. Those are the mornings that mommy hums in the kitchen when she's making breakfast, and instead of oatmeal we have pancakes with butter and syrup. It doesn't happen very much, but the living room smells like the weekend smells when mommy hums in the kitchen.


The lady with the red lips still wants me to sit on her lap and she says to the fat lady beside her, "He must be afraid, all those beatings he took. I feel bad for him, but now he won’t have to worry.” I don't know why, but my face gets hot and my throat feels all greasy. I run upstairs to my room and lay down on my bed that I didn't make this morning because no one cares anymore if my room is tidy, and I stare out the window at all the cars on the street. I think about pancakes and I wonder how I’m ever going to get them now if the weekend smell is in the living room and mommy doesn't hum anymore.

**this assignment was to describe a landscape as seen by a young boy whose violent and philandering father has just died, without mentioning the father or the death. the purpose is to write emotion into the setting without leaning on the emotional event itself. this one was harder than it seemed.**