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You Mother

suspense by Stephen D. Rogers

“Your brother has a Ph.D.”

“You know what that stands for, Ma?  Walk around all day with your head up your ass.  I might not have Jack’s fancy lifestyle but at least I know what’s what.”

His mother continued stirring the pot.  “However much fun you want to make of your brother, he’s managed to keep his marriage in one piece.  Not everybody can say that.”

“Jack and I are different people, Ma.”  He picked up a saltshaker.  Examined the bottom.  Wiped the salt he’d spilled off the kitchen table and onto the floor.  “Jack and I want different things out of life.”

“Your brother wants love, respect, a decent job, and a good family.  What exactly is it that you want?”

“Power.”  He watched her stir.

“Power.  Power is something that comes from inside.  Your brother has power because he’s confident in his self-control.  You have … a dimple when you laugh.  But I don’t know the last time I saw you laugh.”

“I laugh, Ma.”

“Okay.”  She placed the ladle on the shallow dish she’d placed in the middle of the stovetop and turned to face him.  “Tell me a joke.”

“Ma, I said I laughed.  I didn’t say I told jokes.  I’m not some kind of open microphone comedian, Ma.  Give me a break.”

“You won’t give me a grandchild, you can tell me a joke.”

“Did you hear what I said?”

“I heard what you said.  Did you hear what I said?  I don’t think a simple joke is too much for me to ask.”

“Fine.  Three guys go into a bar–”

She stopped him with a raised hand.  “With feeling.  Smile at least.  You’re telling a joke.”

“Okay, okay.  Three guys go into a bar, with feeling.”  He winked.   “The first guy, I’ll call him Al, he’s feeling thirsty. Bob, the second guy, he’s feeling lonely.  And Charlie, he’s feeling like today is his lucky day.  So Al, he orders a shot and a beer, has a sip of both, and he feels better.  Bob, he orders a shot and a beer, and he strikes up a conversation with Al, so he feels better.  Then Charlie, he shows the butt of his gun to the bartender and says, ‘Give me all the money in the register.’  And then Charlie leaves the bar richer than when he entered.  That’s power.”

Shaking her head, his mother picked up the ladle and filled a bowl.  “The joke’s on Charlie.  While Al and Bob found something real, all Charlie got out of the deal was a one-way ticket to prison.”  She placed the bowl in front of him.

“Only if Charlie got caught, which he didn’t, because he’s not a idiot.  Only idiots get caught.  Guys like Al and Bob who think it’s easy.  Those two knuckleheads are just killing time in a bar until they have to go home to nagging wife and screaming kids.”

“Children are a source of joy.”

He grunted.  “Then, tomorrow, Al and Bob are dragging their sorry asses out of bed when their alarms go off so that they can slave at some job they can’t stand just to pay for everything else.  They’re the joke, Ma.  Just like my brother.”

She placed a spoon and napkin next to his bowl.

Turned off the stove in silence.

Sat across from him.  Folded her hands.  Relaxed.

“I don’t know, Charlie.  No offense, but maybe you should stick to dirty limericks.”

She was glad to see her youngest son still dimpled when he laughed, that he still could laugh.  “Eat your soup before it gets cold.”

Copyright October 2010 by Stephen D. Rogers

Stephen D. Rogers is the author of Shot to Death and more than 600  shorter pieces.  Visit his website, www.stephendrogers.com, to learn about new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.

[Return to the October 2010 stories]

2 Responses

  1. […] You Mother […]

  2. Great dialogue; it moved the story along at a steady clip.

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