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  • Kay Freeman


Updated: May 5, 2021

Can't ya hold it? It wasn’t a question but more of a threat. Mom raced neck-and-neck with Pegasus, passing the red-winged horse running across the sky state by state by state, until I cried in pain, resulting in pee-soaked panties. Those signs, my only savior and where she chose to stop for gas. She swung at me from the front, screeching accusations about ruining the car seat, making me snivel and beg forgiveness. I'd broken one of the commandments, Thou Shalt Not Pee Without Permission.

I've been holding it ever since, one way or another all my life. It started with her, though. Blame the Mother? Of course! I curse her most days and usually find someone to take the fall. Forgive and forget? Not in my DNA.

She wasn't cut out for the Mom job. I wished a thousand times for the Television kind. Soft voices, coifed hair, pleated skirts, Peter Pan collars, kitten heels. The delicious kind of Mom, one who baked brownies, apple pies with crumb topping, and chocolate chip cookies. Not my kind of Mom.

She was loud. Had long, frizzy, wild hair. Wore pants every day before women did that, with men's shirts, tails stuck out, and tennis sneakers. She smoked cigarettes without filters and drank tequila shots. And was a writer. At least she said she was.

She'd wake me in the middle of the night and accuse me of doing things I never did. I had taken her book, or her sweater. It was always something. She'd pitch a fit, yelling, shaking or pinching me. This went on for hours until she wore herself out. The next morning she'd find her things, underneath a bed or the chair that no one else was allowed to sit in (aka the Queen's Throne). When I was a teenager and big enough to fight back, it stopped.

Other times she kept me up late, because she was in one of her lonely moods and wanted company. She loved to play Monopoly for hours. But she always wanted to be the banker and cheat – steal the money and win. Nothing made her happier than to own all the blue and orange properties, put hotels all over them, have me land on them and bankrupt me. Once, she kept me home from school and we played for eight hours straight. One of the better times.

Men found her attractive. Made up reasons to stop by. 'Thought you might need some help with your furnace.' I couldn't understand it and didn't like it. As I got older, I realized her unpredictability appealed to a particular type. Men who believed they could save her. Not gonna happen. Something was wrong with her, like a toy you got for Christmas that was broken right out of the box. I knew even as a child I couldn't fix her. Why couldn't they?

One day, curious about her writing, I snooped and opened the notebook. After that, I didn’t call them stories anymore. Page after page of illegible gibberish. Any positive feelings I had escaped like air out of a balloon kept too long after a party. Some of the nasty had surely rubbed off on me. I was a freak because of her. Butchered hair, clothes from the local thrift shop, shredded Cons two sizes too big. A clown the kids at school pointed and laughed at. Discussing which items had originally belonged to them.

The words didn't come when people asked me questions. I froze and stared. I ate lunch alone most times. I only had one friend, a boy, Paul. I couldn't invite him over on account of you-know-who. It didn't matter anyway. We probably wouldn't stay there long. Mom took offense over nothing and everything and changed both jobs and towns at the drop of a hat.

One day Paul's cat had kittens, and he gave me the tiniest one. He said, "She's just like you, cause she's shy at first, but once you get to know her, playful and smart." I was so happy, and Mom let me keep her. She was all black with one white paw, so I named her Uno. I loved her so. The kitten slept with me every night, curled up purring, kneading its claws into my neck, every once in a while, drawing blood, but I didn't care. For once, another living thing wanted me close.

I was sixteen when Mom said we were leaving again. She ordered me to pack. I stewed. Slamming my suitcase about, stuffing in my sorrow, unpacking my rage. This town wasn't better than the others, but the next place could be worse. The next day when I came home from school, Mom was standing on the porch smoking a cigarette, and Uno wasn't there to greet me.

"Where's Uno?" I asked.

Mom smirked. "Don't worry about it."

But I did worry. There were long scratch marks on her hands and arms. I searched everywhere. The body was down by the stream, hidden behind the grasses on some rocks.

When I returned, Mom was at the front door speaking with Paul. His smile had crashed, and his expression was one of disbelief. He turned away, almost running down our stairs. I overheard Mom say something about how I needed the best psychiatric help available, and how sorry she had been to hear about the cat.

After my only friend pedaled away, transforming into a dot, I snuck into the garage and found a baseball bat, left by another kid who actually played. She was taking a nap in her room, sleeping off her day-drinking, which was her custom before dinner. I didn't hesitate much, only long enough for my hands to stop shaking; and as the light faded from the sky, I slipped into the house and put out hers. She didn't know what hit her. I've always loved that expression, and now I love it even more because it's true. Blood oozed and spread on the sheet, forming the red-winged Pegasus, as if by magic. My turn now.

A final act of defiance or desperation – peeing on her precious, no longer private journal. Exposed. Two tiny words flashed below me, written multiple times in minuscule print, filling both open pages. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. The words, growing blurry, ran and faded. I followed.


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