Not Involved

[Family life. Fiction. It's all part of the same pot, isn't it?]

David looked up from the letter informing him of his mother’s death–and the next thing he knew he was nine years old, floating inches off the ceiling of the dining room in the house in which he grew up.

Directly below him, yellow with layered dust and glowing white hot, were the six flame-shaped bulbs of the room’s faux-brass candelabra, hanging from its faux-brass chain above the family’s sleek faux-walnut dining room table.

Sitting alone at that table was his 12-year-old sister, Carol. She was a plump girl — not obese, not fat, not slovenly: just early-teenager plump.

In front of Carol on the otherwise empty table was a large cereal bowl piled high with shiny malted milk balls. The only other person in the room was David and Carol’s mother. She was screaming at Carol to eat all the malted milk balls.

“Finish them, hog!” she screamed. “Do you hear me? You’re not getting up out of that seat until you finish the whole bowl, you disgusting pig!”

David, quietly floating above it all, felt a pain in his left hand. He looked down, and saw that a little boy who had appeared from nowhere was now standing beside his mother. With her right hand his mother was tightly gripping this boy’s left hand. Oddly, this new little boy looked exactly like him. The boy on the ground was silently watching Carol. He looked sad and anxious.

“Eat them!” Ruth said to her daughter. “Finish them all, fatso!” She looked down at the boy whose hand she was clutching.

“Isn’t that right, honey? Isn’t Carol a little piggy girl? I found her sneaking into the candy, didn’t I? And she’s such a fat little piggy, I’m sure she would have eaten the whole bag if I hadn’t caught her.”

And then, from his position above the faux-candelabra, David cried out, “I know I would have! Who wouldn’t want to eat all the malted milk balls?”

His mom continued talking to the boy at her side, though. “So now she needs to eat the whole bag, just like the hog she is. Isn’t that right?”

Well, screw this noise, thought David: Enough was enough. Turning on his Super Flying Will Power, he swept down from the ceiling like an avenging eagle, landing beside his sister’s chair. He threw his arm around her and pointed at his mother.

“What in God’s name is the matter with you?” he cried. “You need to stop this nonsense! You are seriously in the running for the Absolute Worst Mom Ever award! What you’re doing is wrong! Ever since Dad moved out, everything Carol does is revolting, and everything I do is the greatest thing that’s ever happened! Do you have any idea how wacko that is, Mom? Do you? Do you ever notice the looks the other moms at the PTA meetings give you when you say things like, ‘Well, today my miraculous wonder of a son controlled the weather over Africa and parts of Australia, while my devilish pig-daughter sucked all the goodness out of the universe just by being alive’? Huh, Mom? Ever notice people giving you that panicked, ‘Oh my God, this woman’s a loon’ look, Mom? Do you? Ever notice the people at the store baggin’ your groceries a lotfaster than they do anybody else’s? Notice waiters dropping your food off as they practically run past your table — never, ever to return? Did’ya think it was just bad service, Mom? Did’ya? Cuz I got news for you, you snap-dragon. It wasn’t! It was service for the insane!

“We’re just normal kids, Mom! All kids like malted milk balls, you vain, petty, messed-up, mean-spirited, rotten-to-the-core nightmare!

David said those things to his mother.

With his arm around his sister, whom he loved with a dedication canine in its intensity, he looked straight at his mother, and said those things to her.

He saved his sister Carol.

He saved her! He saved her! He saved her!

Except he didn’t. Throughout his speech and afterwards his mom continued glaring at his sister. His sister, seemingly unaware of the hero at her side, continued staring down at the bowl of malted milk balls, her mouth a flat smear of wretchedness.

David felt another pang in his left hand, the one around Carol’s shoulder.

He looked at his mom. He looked at Carol. He looked at the kid who looked so much like him, the kid whose hand was hurting him because of how much his mom was squeezing it.

It was like none of them had seen or heard him at all. It was like David had done nothing whatsoever to defend his sister against their mother. It’s like he had just stood there, with that kid, and watched her suffer.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Shell

    Oh, John. That's awful. Poor babies.

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta

    John, there was something in me that wanted to smack that mother up the head! But then, I wondered if David in the story is somewhat a picture of Jesus come to love, help and protect, but he is disregarded…..no one is noticing him?

    Please put 'To be continued" at the end of your gripping introduction.

    Don't stifle your creativity with short sentences everyday or so in order to placate your readers.

  • http://cometothewell.wordpress.com dsrtrosy

    My mom, although insane, isn't the WORST mom ever. But I had a moment sort of like this one when I realized we had, without meaning to be unkind, done something similar to my little sister.

    When she was little, she had that cute little fat tummy some toddlers have. No shirt would stay down over that little belly. We all adored it! But somehow, we got messed up in how we showed it. In the days before Weebles Wobbles, we had a toy called a "Chubby Cub." it was the same idea–a completely rounded bottom/belly that allowed the Chubby Cub to be pushed over and always right itself.

    It was one of our favorite toys. And by the time my sis was 3, it was also her nickname: Chubby Cub. The thing is, she was NEVER chubby once she outgrew that baby tummy. Never. And yet the nickname stuck for years.

    I was about 30 when I realized what a mean thing it was to call her that, no matter what the intention. Good intentions can be as devastating as the bad intentions of the mother in this story. Words have power. We are usually unaware of how much power we wield.

    I can't sign up for the email alerts, because I get so many emails in a day. I'm going to miss the occassional alerts.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com Skerrib

    I don't like that story–that's not to say it's not good, just that I didn't like the hopeless feeling at the end. Maybe it's not over?

    But I did like the emphasis on all the faux-stuff. If I were back in AP English I'd say it's an interesting parallel, having all this faux stuff on display in the house, with the pleasant facade the family probably kept up for outsiders.

  • Hjordes

    Ouch.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    Your fictional worlds have a comical eerie blend like Mark Twain meets Edgar Allen Poe.

  • FreetoBe

    John: I think we've all had David moments, when we feel so guilty and helpless. Poor, poor babies.

    dsrtrosy: I could have been your little sister. My parents called me "Fat Fanny" for years. I hated it and nobody cared, until I refused to answer when called that.

  • http://samwrites2.wordpress.com samwrites2

    John,

    EXACTLY what I need at this time.

    Guess that's the point of your well-written fiction – it makes us aware of reality that needs to be altered. Thanks, Sam

  • http://wineymomma.wordpress.com wineymomma

    I do not like the helpless feeling that stories like this give me but it is a feeling that I need to be reminded of sometimes to get myself up and active and in the face of … well whatever I need to confront.

  • cathy

    Everyone called my sister…BFBB…which meant Big Fat Butter Ball. I did not call her that. It caused her to feel horrible. My dad was not around much, and when he was, I was treated like that. He wanted boys, not girls, etc. What a sad commentary. What a sorrowful story!

    God truly is the Father I did not have!

    Cat.

  • http://thestateofamerica.wordpress.com Daniel Downs

    Is the pathos of a wanna be a defender within his own mind kid whose ruthless, psychotic mother about to crush his hand part of the play you are working on?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hey, guys. Thanks for reading and commenting. It's been an impressive experience, reading these comments. Thanks again for them.

    Daniel: No, this piece has nothing to do with the play I'm writing. A lot of the core dynamic here DOES play a part in the next play I'll write, but not for the current one. Thanks for asking, though.

  • Angela

    I guess I don’t get why you posted this.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Because I wanted to. The wonders of a blog.

  • Ann

    Nice stuff.

  • Pingback: The Trouble With Glass « Suddenly Christian

  • Deborah

    John, that was stunning! In its imagery, its intensity, its focus, its … well, I am blown away and profoundly moved and even more called to action to defend someone helpless. YOU ROCK!!!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Deborah: Wow! That was awfully kind of you. Thanks! How … lovely!

  • maria luisa

    It appears John have not overcome the hurts out of the horrible experience. I wonder what happened to Carol. Did the experience turned her to rise above life's difficult situation or turned her to be bitter about herself? I hope the story will present a redeeming experience for both John and Carol. I can't wait for the continuation of the story. I hope there will be.

  • maria luisa

    Let me correct my previous comment. I was referring to David, the charater in the story, not John, the author. My apology to John.


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