Around the House

Three of us live in the piece of shit house on the hill two blocks past the end of the train line: Ma, the monster, and me.

Four of us if you count the cat, but he only eats here a few times a week. Not that I eat three squares, but you know what I mean. I tried to follow him one time, to see if another family was feeding him. Maybe they’d feed me too.

It didn’t work. The cat caught me shadowing him and vanished into a hole in the hedge near the corner of 9th and Taft. I wandered around downtown looking through shop windows and watching the wind blow newspapers around until the cold was worse than the hunger.

I made my way back up the hill to the house I’ve never called home. No sign of Ma. The monster was there, though, sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. He wanted to know where the hell I’d been. What the hell I’d been doing.

As if hell was anywhere but right here.

He made me turn my pockets inside out to prove I hadn’t been stealing.

As if stealing was the worst thing a person could do.

“You know the drill,” the monster said.

I turned and put my hands against the wall, above my head. I took a step back and leaned forward, my legs spread.

I’m not sure what is worse. Waiting or feeling his hands on my body.

This time, I was lucky. Before the monster got warmed up, the loose board on the porch creaked. Ma coming home.

The monster sat in his chair. He jerked his head toward the chair next to him. I sat.

Ma set two plastic bags on the table and unwound her scarf.

The monster rustled in the shopping bags and pulled out a bottle of beer. He twisted the top and the hiss of the carbonation filled the silence.

Ma hung her scarf and coat on the nail by the door. She turned around and looked at us. Her eyes watering, her nose running from the cold. “I’ve got some ground beef they had on special,” she said. We all knew on special meant the meat was about to go bad. “Or I could make us some eggs.”

“Both sound great,” the monster said. His hand spidered onto my knee.

Ma looked at me.

“I don’t have much of an appetite,” I said. The monster’s hand crawled higher. “I was thinking I might look for a job. I’m old enough for a work permit now.”

The monster’s hand squeezed my thigh. “If you really want to,” he said. “I’ll miss having you around the house.”

Prompted by Anonymous (kitchen table, monster, end of the line)

Leave a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt and tag you when I publish it.

Photo by Drew Dizzy Graham on Unsplash

Jim’s Taco Fund (trying not to be a starving artist)

Buy me some tacos and I’ll let you name my secondborn child. (The first one already has a name.)