Life is Wonderful

Contributor: Matt Pearce

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I woke to the screaming. My mother’s pleading in answer to my father’s shouting. They were at it again. I knew it was hopeless to try to sleep. Every angry word by my father reverberated through the house. I sometimes could see the rafters shake with each rise in pitch. I could imagine the spittle being sprayed out by his screaming throat hitting my Mother’s face, sticking to her like evil ooze. Dribble she could not wipe away without facing further abuse.
Ever since he lost his job last month at the car factory, spending any kind of money turned him into an unstoppable monster. Last week, the sink clogged and my father was forced to call a repairman. For the last few days he had been repeating, “We can’t afford it,” and when he looked at me as he said it, I could imagine his hands squeezing my throat in blame.
The previous morning, as I sat next to him at the breakfast table sipping on orange juice and trying to choke down the pasty oatmeal my mother made me, I almost considered asking him if I could go on a field trip with my class to the Natural History Museum. The cost was a minimal five dollars, but as he read his paper, he found something in it that caused him to explode, “Damn it to Hell! For that price we could have gotten a new sink!” I quickly swallowed the question, deciding I wouldn’t join my classmates, but stay at the school in a room by myself being babysat by the weird, P.E. teacher, Mr. Jones.
I got out of bed and tiptoed to my door. I peeked out and could see my parents’ shadows doing an angry tango in the kitchen. I eased out and headed to Tommy’s room. When he wasn’t in his bed, I knew where he would be. I inched towards his closet and pulled on it gently, knowing if I did it too hard, it would send a loud creak throughout the house, alerting our father to us being awake.
Tommy sat on the floor with a bag of jellybeans in his lap, his fingers in his ears, and his head bowed with his eyes closed as if saying a prayer. I nudged him with my foot and he jolted in fear. His eyes relaxed as he saw me and I took my seat next to him.
“Hi Jimmy,” he mumbled. His eyes were puffy and red from crying. He offered me the bag of jellybeans. “Want one?”
“No,” I replied.
“Jellybeans are a fruit,” he said. “That’s what Mommy always says.”
I smiled. Our mother always had jellybeans with her and always used this little joke to make us laugh and to pacify us every time me or Tommy were upset about something.
“How long do you think it’s going to be this time?” Tommy asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Do you think they’re going to get divorced?” he asked with his voice etched with concern.
“I don’t know,” I said again.
“If they did, do you think they would split us up? One of us living with Daddy and the other with Mommy?”
“I don’t think it will come to that,” I said. “They’ll work through it. They always do,” I said without any conviction. However, it was enough to convince the young mind of my little brother.
“I don’t know what I would do without you Jimmy,” he said and I could hear the tears coming back in his voice.
I put my arm around him trying to soothe him when I noticed how quiet it had become. “Do you hear that?” I asked him.
“What?” he asked sitting up and looking around. “I don’t hear anything.”
“Exactly,” I replied. “They’re not fighting anymore.”
The door to the closet opened and both of us leaned back looking for a place to hide from the violent hurricane that was our father.
“There you two are,” we heard the sweet voice of our mother say. “I should have guessed you two would be in here.”
I studied my mother and noticed a fresh bruise on the side of one of her cheeks. When she saw me staring, she covered it with one hand. With a forced smile she said, “Let’s get you two back in bed.”
“Mommy, what’s wrong?” Tommy asked.
“It’s nothing,” she said as she helped Tommy get back in bed. I stood back as she tucked him in.
“Is Daddy always going to be mad at you?”
“No sweetie,” she said and I could hear her choking on her words. “Someday, everything will be perfect. Someday, life will be wonderful.”
She looked to me for confirmation. “Isn’t that right Jimmy?”
“Yeah,” I shot back knowing it was all for Tommy’s sake.

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Matt Pearce was born and raised in Chickasha, OK. For the last few years he has been living in Central Florida with his wife and kids. He holds a BA in English: Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and is currently pursuing and MFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University.
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